Safety and winter recreation

By Richard HaskellSkating, Toronto, February, 2014

Winter doesn’t have to be all cold hands and aggravation. It can be an enjoyable time of year if you choose to get out and engage in any number of outdoor activities. But never forget the basic rules of common sense. Wear helmets when skiing and snowmobiling and consider them when skating or tobogganing as well. You can be sure the athletes taking part in the winter Olympics at Sochi will all be sporting them – and those being worn by two Canadian skiers will have a particularly special meaning. Brad Spence’s helmet was designed by Gillian O’Blenes, a 17-year-old cancer patient, while Roz Groenewoud hopes to embroider a sticker with the name “Sarah” insider her helmet, honouring her friend Sarah Burke, a freestyle skier and four-time X Games champion who died in a skiing accident in January 2012.

As recently as 30 years ago, it was uncommon to see someone skiing, snowboarding or skating wearing a helmet. “Overly cautious’ might have been the reaction. But with the ever- growing awareness of concussions and the potential for brain injuries, helmets have almost become the norm – and rightly so.

Skiing and snowboarding

On Dec. 29, 2013, racing car driver extraordinaire Michael Schumacher made headlines when he sustained a head injury while skiing in the French Alps. A month later, he remains in an induced coma, and there are definite concerns he may never make a full recovery. Yes, he was wearing a helmet, but if hadn’t been, it’s very likely he wouldn’t have survived at all.

Continue reading

Monthly preview: BIST takes on winter

Canadian winters.

Love them or hate them, there is no denying that
winters and Canadians’ struggle against the extreme conditions that they bring are
part of what defines us. Look no further than a 2008 survey
commissioned by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Dominion
Institute. With icons such as the Maple Leaf, hockey and the Canadian flag topping the list of the 101 things that best define this country, those surveyed still had winter on their minds and ranked it 85th on the list.

Whatever your feelings toward our inevitable winters, we here at BIST intend
to help you to deal with it as we roll out our first monthly theme for the blog (a new year, a new direction, right?).

Melissa Myers’ report provides vital information for anyone participating in winter sports such as hockey, snowboarding or tobogganing, with a particular focus the appropriate helmets for different activities.

While the cold temperatures and snow make for fun on the slopes and pond, they also can create havoc on the roads. Check back here later this month for tips and advice on driving in winter conditions featuring an interview with ‘The Safe Driver’ himself, Scott Marshall, director of Training for Young Drivers of Canada.

Also this month, read the first of many stories written by a BIST member living
with the effects of an acquired brain injury.

What’s that you say? You don’t want to miss a single post? Then ‘like’ us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter where we will offer links to our latest posts and other interesting articles or information relating to this month’s theme.

In the meantime, stay safe.

Matthew Chung. BIST member and Communications Committee volunteer.

Question and Answer: ETalk host Ben Mulroney

In May, 2010 Ben Mulroney ran his first marathon — The Mississauga Marathon — in three hours and 47 minutes. An impressive time for the ETalk host, recognized more for interviewing big-name celebrities on the red carpet than for pounding the pavement.

ETalk host Ben Mulroney
ETalk host Ben Mulroney. Photo courtesy of CTV

But perhaps equally impressive was his fundraising efforts for what he dubbed “The Run for Big Mike.” Mike, a friend of Mulroney’s, had suffered a tramautic brain injury in 2009 in a motor vehicle crash and spent several weeks in coma. He is still on the road to recovery. Mulroney and the team involved in the run placed the funds — $48, 000 — in a trust for Mike’s family to offer them some assistance .

More recently, Mulroney ran in the Brain Injury Society of Toronto’s (BIST) First Annual 5K Run, placing third after kicking off the event with opening remarks about Big Mike and those living with acquired brain injuries.

Mulroney agreed to a Q & A with BIST. Check it out by clicking the link below:

Continue reading

Can you give your brain a workout?

The attendees of the BIST Community Meeting on January 24th were treated to a fantastic presentation on Brain Fitness Basics by Paula Hilborn, an Occupational Therapist with Beverlee C. Melamed and Associates Inc.

Brain fitness involves increasing the brain’s ability to readily create additional neurons (nerve cells that process and transmit information from one part of the body to another).  Relatively recent research has discovered that the brain can reorganize itself when confronted with new challenges, regardless of age.  When given the right kind of exercise, the brain can actually reshape itself to become more efficient and effective. This ability is known as “neuroplasticity,”

Paula went on to talk about the four pillars of brain fitness:

  1. Balanced nutrition – Maintain a diet con­tain­ing fatty fish, veg­eta­bles and sal­ads, berries, dark chocolate and nuts.
  2. Stress Management – stress can damage your brain affecting memory skills, executive functions (self-control, planning, reasoning, and abstract thought) and motor skills
  3. Physical Exercise – Through increased blood flow to the brain, phys­i­cal exer­cise trig­gers bio­chem­i­cal changes that increase neu­ro­plas­tic­ity
  4. Cognitive Stimulation – Brain fitness stimulates the same area of the brain that strengthens the connections between neurons and the creation of new ones.

How do I get started with Brain Fitness? 

  • Pick one pillar to focus on to get started
  • Sign up for a free-trial membership at
  • Use tracking sheets to record your progress

No computer?  No problem!  Sudoku games are a good way to give your brain a workout because they require logic, common sense and concentration.  You can also visit your local Toronto Public Library branch to check out books on brain fitness.

Here is a list of other resources to keep your brain fit: Great online brain training activities.  Free 7 day trial.

http://www.dana.orgThe Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives They have a free publication on brain fitness called Your Brain at Work – SharpBrains has a newsletter that you can subscribe to for the lastest research and information regarding brain fitness. – An educational website dedicated to brain training programs.– Over 20,000 brain teasers, riddles, logic problems, quizzes and mind puzzles – Brain fitness program developed to challenge your mind and keep it in top gear

“The Brain That Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge, M.D. – Book that talks about neuroplasticity and the specific changes that occur in the brain with physical and cognitive Continue reading