Meet this week’s celebrity, Abbie McLellan, the Chapter Director of McGill’s new SLICE club, which strives to educate the community about concussion. She is currently in U3, studying Cognitive Science, while simultaneously coping with her own post-concussion syndrome. She points out the irony that she spends half of her time thinking about thinking and the other half of the time thinking about how to fix her thinking. For those of you who have never had a concussion, it may seem irrelevant, but everyone has the possibility of getting concussed in any situation so I advise you to scroll down to read more about SLICE and how you can get involved.
Belle Kim for Her Campus McGill (HC McGill): What is SLICE?
Abbie McLellan (AM): SLICE stands for Sports Legacy Institute Community Educators. Our parent organization is Sports Legacy Institute, which focuses on concussion education, policy and research. We are Community Educators, meaning our members will be trained in the official SLICE presentation, and present what they learn to middle schools and high schools. The goal is to educate our community, including the McGill student body, teachers, coaches, and parents about what a concussion is, why concussions are worth caring about, and what can be done if someone gets a concussion.
HC McGill: Why the focus on sports?
AM: Sports have caused concussions to come into the spotlight in recent years, making it an ideal topic to get the word out, especially to young people. Also, sports injuries tend to be under-reported because athletes have grown up in the culture of sucking it up for the team. If we can use the topic of sports to educate young people about concussions, hopefully what they learn will stick with them and help them in future situations.
HC McGill: Who is SLICE geared towards?
AM: SLICE is geared towards university students interested in educating younger students about concussions. Special interest may stem from students in fields such as, but in no way limited to, kinesiology, neuroscience, anatomy, and physical education. A student who has already received a concussion may also be interested in sharing their story. In addition, our club provides support to students who are dealing with concussions.
HC McGill: How did you get involved? Have you had any personal experience with concussion? How did you deal with it then?
AM: I got involved with the program after getting a concussion on April 5, 2013 while playing basketball at Rez Warz. Now, almost 19 months later, I am still dealing with symptoms from that concussion. This post-concussion syndrome probably occurred because I didn’t handle my concussion properly. I studied for four exams right after getting hit, not realizing that someone with a concussion needs mental rest as well as physical. I realize now that I was totally unprepared to handle my treatment, and saw that other people who had concussions were in similar positions. The thing about concussions is that recovery is totally dependent on proper treatment, but once you get a concussion, your ability to make smart decisions is impaired. As a result of not treating my concussion properly, I canceled all my plans for that summer, and only took one course when I came back to McGill. My life has been profoundly impacted. Some of those impacts have been good, for example, I got back into art and learned to play the guitar. In that sense, I dealt with the aftermath of my concussion very optimistically. After my experience, I saw it as essential to better educate my community so that next time someone gets a concussion, they will know that it is a serious injury, and will have the tools to treat it. At the time of my concussion, McGill didn’t have any student support group, so I decided to bring the SLICE initiative to our campus.
HC McGill: You must already have a lot of students interested in joining SLICE. How can one get involved?
AM: You can check out the website to learn how to get involved. Right now, the two main options we offer are to become an educator, or join our support group. The great thing about becoming an educator is that even if you just do the training, the topics covered in the training are essential for all people to know. The support group is open to people with concussions, but also friends and family members of people with a concussion, in order to better support them in their life.The club is also working on a coalition between different medical experts in the field of head trauma. This will help make sure research doesn’t overlap, but also help treatment become more interconnected. Students who are interested in the research side of concussions can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
HC McGill: I know that the club just begun this semester. It must be an exciting time for you. Can you tell me what the club’s hopes and goals are for the future?
AM: I think the biggest goal for us is that if a student gets a concussion on campus, they will know the steps to take: registering with MyAccess, talking to their advisor, getting accommodations, and finally resting. Or, if they don’t know what to do, they will know that we are here to help and answer all their questions. It is very difficult for students to stop studying during the school year, but sometimes rest is the most important thing. If our club can be the one to encourage and support students in the decision to rest, then we have succeeded in tackling the concussion crisis.
HC McGill: Are there any events coming up that you would like the readers to know about?
AM: We are very aware that McGill students are hitting the books for finals! Thats why we have decided to kick off our first big training session of the school year in early January. Coming to training is a great way to educate yourself, whether or not you plan on giving presentations in the future.
Images provided by interviewee.