Khizer is a second year medical student at the University of Ottawa, and a coordinator of Ottawa Brain Waves. He is passionate about injury prevention and health promotion, and is also an avid soccer and tennis player.
Brain Wave has been a major success in Ottawa. Medical students from the University of Ottawa served as the presenters for the presentations. As one of the Brain Waves coordinators, I was very pleased to see the amount of interest and participation from my fellow Brain Waves presenters. I realized that my peers really did want to carry the message of injury prevention and safety.
From personal experience, I do not recall learning about bicycle safety or the importance of wearing a helmet when I was in my elementary school years. This was not something that was focused on – my friends and I used to ride our bikes without helmets all the time. I would say the landscape has shifted since then, with new research highlighting the long-term dangers from sustaining concussions, and with some well-publicized events, such as the one year long sidelining of Sidney Crosby following two concussions.
I had a wonderful opportunity to go to a local school, Stephen Leacock P.S., and present to one of their Grade 6 classes. The students were very excited and raring to go, which was great motivation for my partner Garrick and I to present! Garrick and I are both second year medical students at the University of Ottawa. Our mentor, CHEO neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Vassilyadi, was present to see the event and take pictures. Excitingly, the CBC was there as well to cover the presentation – Brain Waves got its time on the 6 o’clock news in Ottawa, both on TV and radio!We brought along with us a Jell-O brain that was purple in colour. I can say without a doubt that the brain model generated the most interest amongst the students!
We started off by talking about what the brain is, where it is located, and what it is made of. Students learned about the neurons and how they serve as messengers between the brain and the body. We did an interactive activity that showed that longer neurons, such as those to the leg, take a longer time to relay their message than shorter ones, such as those to the face. I was very impressed at how much the students already knew about the body and specifically the nervous system - it made our job as presenters a whole lot easier.
We then talked about the five senses. There were interesting little activities for each of the senses. The point of them was for the students to realize that they were all associated with the brain. We talked about which part of the brain controlled each sense - for example, the temporal lobe for hearing, and the occipital lobe for vision. The essential point that we wanted to drive home was that a hit to the head could negatively affect our senses. To protect them, it is therefore important to wear a helmet!
Perhaps the most important part of the presentation came at the end, when we got to talking about appropriate helmet fitting procedures. Most students had brought their helmets to class, and so we were able to practise on a 1-to-1 basis. Garrick and I talked about the 2-V-1 rule [link to bookmark]: a snug, well-fitting helmet should leave space for two fingers to fit above the eyebrows, the straps should form a ‘V’ around the ears, and one finger should be able to fit above the chin strap.
We also had the opportunity to talk about concussions and brain injuries. Students learned about the serious impact these could have on their daily living. We discussed why returning to sports and activity should be done slowly. Most importantly, we told students that they should tell their parents or a medical professional if they believed that they had sustained a concussion.
Students were empowered with very simple strategies to prevent very serious injuries. They were encouraged to become advocates of injury prevention themselves, by passing on their knowledge to their parents, siblings, friends, and neighbours. It is our hope that small interventions like this can promote a culture of prevention and health promotion in our community.
Want to participate in Brain Waves like Khizer? Learn more about Brain Waves or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how you can get involved!