A conversation about injured Huskie athletes has turned into a injury research and health science facility being installed at the University of Saskatchewan.
The $2-million Ron and Jane Graham Sport Science and Health Centre is being built inside Merlis Belsher Place, the new home of Huskies hockey.
The Grahams, longtime supporters of Huskie Athletics, are fully funding the 6,000 square foot addition to the arena. They made the decision after a casual conversation with the dean of kinesiology, Chad London.
“The three of us began chatting one day about the challenges of injured athletes,” London recalled.
“We really started to talk about, in this day and age, what research can do … to be able to help make that difference.”
The sport research space will feature individual treatment rooms, a 30-metre motion capture running track, medical labs, a concussion evaluation area and a three-storey tall space for concussion impact testing.
London said the centre will also work with the school of engineering to look at sport helmet designs, in an attempt to reduce the risk of concussions in athletes. He added the hope is to benefit more than just Huskie athletes.
“This centre will serve competitive athletes from across Saskatchewan and beyond,” he said.
“(They’ll have) the same benefits of improved performance and allowing those people to reach their potential.”
London noted the facility will essentially triple the amount of space athletic therapists and researchers currently have to work in.
PhD student Justin Andrushko, who has been researching how injured limbs respond when the opposite limb is exercised, said he’s looking forward to the new setting.
“It almost doubles the access I have,” he said.
“Being in the same room with the athletes is really big, and being able to translate the work we do from healthy populations into injured athletes is really impactful.”
Andrushko’s research, featured in the New York Times, suggests brain signals can stimulate the muscles in a broken arm or leg if the other arm or leg is worked out.
Another benefit for athlete rehabilitation will be the proximity to playing surfaces.
Merlis Belsher Place features two hockey rinks and practice courts for basketball and volleyball, while the Saskatoon Field House, soccer fields and Griffiths Stadium are nearby.
“This allows us to do active rehabilitation,” Physiotherapist Adrienne Stinson states in a promotional video.
“It’s a game changer.”
Ron and Jane Graham, owners of Graham Construction, are the largest cumulative alumni donors in the University of Saskatchewan’s history. With the most recent donation, they’ve contributed a total of $22 million towards facilities and awards.
“The sacrifice of our Huskie athletes made by balancing their academics and their athletics has always impressed us,” Jane said.
“We look very much forward to seeing the difference (the facility) will make for athletes in every sport throughout our city and our province.”
The centre is expected to open in early 2019.