Follow the fish
Preventing injury in youth hockey
You may never encounter a three-spined
stickleback, but the ocean-dwelling, minnow-like fish could lead to a deeper insight into
some illnesses, thanks to Dr. Samuel Yeaman.
Yeaman, a researcher funded by Alberta
Innovates – Health Solutions (AIHS) at the
University of Calgary, studies the evolution
of complex traits such as body shape. These
traits are controlled by more than a single
gene, so they’re harder to identify among the
tens of thousands of genes that make each
“If we can understand how genes have
evolved, we can improve the methods we use
to detect them,” Yeaman says.
That’s where the stickleback comes in.
The fish is an ideal subject because some
of its genes have evolved in patterns.
“Studying how the genes in the stickleback
are organized can give us clues as to how
similar genes may evolve in humans, and help
us refine the methods we use to find them,”
Finding those genes could help researchers
understand and cure various health conditions,
from cardiovascular disease to obesity.
— D. W.
Researcher Carolyn Emery’s work is preventing
countless injuries in young hockey players in
Funded by Alberta Innovates – Health
Solutions (AIHS), Emery found that
bodychecking in youth hockey greatly
increases the risk of injury, including
concussions. The research helped persuade
Hockey Canada in 2013 to ban bodychecking
in peewee hockey (played by 11- and 12-year-
Now Emery and her team at the Sport Injury
Prevention Research Centre at the University
of Calgary’s Faculty of Kinesiology are looking
at injury rates in bantam (13- and 14-year-
old) and midget (15- to 17-year-old) hockey
players. The researchers are comparing non-
elite levels in Alberta that allow bodychecking
with those in British Columbia, where it’s
banned at that level.
“Concussions in youth ice hockey are
predictable and preventable,” Emery says.
Many traumatic brain injuries (which jar or
shake the brain inside the skull) can result
from body contact and direct blows to the
head. Concussion can lead to headaches
and problems with concentration, memory,
balance and coordination. “Let’s reduce the
risk of concussion and injury in youth hockey in
Canada so more kids can play and have fun.”
— Debby Waldman
Illustrations by Kyle Metcalf