By Lisa Pendergast
A LOVE OF hockey and an education in behavioural neuroscience. Together, they gave Maria Powell the motivation and tools to fight a debilitating injury that is pervasive in contact sports — concussions.
The former Memorial medical student co-founded Concussion-U with four other classmates in 2015. The group was founded with the goal to make sports safer for young people. Concussion-U is all about delivering education on sports-related injury in an accessible way that resonates with youth.
“Our common interest in sport-related concussions and backgrounds, along with support from the Faculty of Medicine, that’s what led to Concussion-U,” says Ms. Powell.
She grew up playing hockey in Newfoundland and Labrador. Her interest in concussions comes from her own hockey career — having sustained the injury herself — and seeing many teammates and friends deal with sports-related head injuries.
In 2017, Ms. Powell relocated to Calgary to complete her residency in internal medicine but ultimately hopes to return to Newfoundland and Labrador. Concussion-U lives on at Memorial. “We created a model for the group to be self-sustainable — for new students to take over and continue to provide support and up-to-date information to athletes, parents and coaches,” she says.
Ms. Powell credits Concussion-U with being a passion project that challenged her to step outside of her comfort zone, something she feels she needed in order to become a better doctor. “In Newfoundland and Labrador, we have the added challenge of living on an island with a smaller population, so we have to find ways to be innovative and create opportunities to grow.”