Your Complex Brain

Why Fran Rider has donated her brain post-mortem to the Canadian Concussion Centre

October 31, 2023 Krembil Brain Institute
Your Complex Brain
Why Fran Rider has donated her brain post-mortem to the Canadian Concussion Centre
Show Notes Transcript

Fran Ryder is the president of the Ontario Women's Hockey Association and has been involved in women's hockey for many years. She has played and volunteered in various capacities in the sport. She has also been involved in research and initiatives related to spinal injuries and concussions in hockey, working closely with Dr. Charles Tator, a world-renowned neurosurgeon and researcher, on these initiatives. 

Dr. Tator has been a mentor and inspiration to her. She has also been a champion of the importance of brain donations for research and has donated her brain to Dr. Tator's research. She is passionate about the sport and the importance of safety and prevention of injuries in addition to advocating for the recognition and treatment of concussions and other brain injuries in sports.

The Your Complex Brain production team is Heather Sherman, Jessica Schmidt, Dr. Amy Ma, Kim Perry, Sara Yuan, Meagan Anderi, Liz Chapman, and Lorna Gilfedder.

The Krembil Brain Institute, part of University Health Network, in Toronto, is home to one of the world's largest and most comprehensive teams of physicians and scientists uniquely working hand-in-hand to prevent and confront problems of the brain and spine, such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, epilepsy, stroke, spinal cord injury, chronic pain, brain cancer or concussion, in their lifetime. Through state-of-the-art patient care and advanced research, we are working relentlessly toward finding new treatments and cures.

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Thanks for listening!

My name is Fran Rider and I am the president of the Ontario Women's Hockey Association and heavily involved in women's hockey. My dad was a firefighter. My mom was a lifetime volunteer helping kids. And we are true hockey fans, sports fans. And we were cottagers as well. And so morning to night, my brother and I did participate in every sport going on, on and off the water.


I absolutely loved hockey, loved the Toronto Maple Leafs, desperately wanted to play hockey. Girls didn't play at that time, so my hockey was playing on figure skates on a backyard rink with a hockey stick and absolutely loving it. I learned about the Brampton tournament and started playing hockey. I was 15. The youngest player in our team was nine. The oldest was 44. It was full body checking. I went from figure skates to full body, checking in no time, and I was happy being on the bench. But the players wanted you to play and be part of the team. And at that point I started playing hockey for and I played for about 30 years. It was so important to be part of the team. You shared your love of hockey and you learned a lot about developing individual skills, but more importantly, sharing the joy and experiences of teammates of the game has played with intensity at many levels, but there is a bigger focus on the individual, the person, and working together and succeeding as a team and losing as a team. If you made a mistake that would cost the team a goal or cost the team. There was a lot of support network there and you learn very much how to win and lose together and to keep the perspective of sport and society in in true life.


When I started to be involved in 1968, I started to volunteer as well. And I want to do anything and everything I could in the world of hockey that took me to working on various boards at team level, at league level and association level. And certainly as we were growing and building, we were watching the trends of the game. The equipment was very, very inferior and you know, the equipment did not fit women properly, the helmets did not fit properly. The pants, the gloves. The shinpads, has none of the equipment fit well. The sticks were inappropriate, but we were working towards making equipment better and also learning that very early the spinal injuries that were starting to pop up in hockey and we worked with Dr. Pashby as he was working his work to put the face shields on players to save injuries. And Dr. Tator was certainly very close to Dr. Pasby in that goal. We saw a movement into spinal injuries and severe spinal injuries and paralysis and even death through hockey.


We connected with Dr. Tator, who was very, very keen to do research on spinal injuries, on mechanism of the injury, and worked very hard to the prevention and quality of life through spinal injuries. We collected the information of individual players who had spinal injuries and suspected spinal injuries and shared that data with Dr. Tator. And he actually got involved firsthand with some of the players who had a fractured vertebrae, who was not treated properly. And he intervened in that one. And not only did he do research on it, but he cared about every single person and he was an inspiration. We couldn't believe that we were working with someone of his prestige, his knowledge, his credentials and the fact that he cared. And he was so humble and gave so much to each person he came in contact with and wanted to do so much to make the world of sport safer. I remember talking with him on the phone many, many times and his incredible kindness and his brilliance and his desire to make things better and his interest. He was actively interested. He made himself available with his busy schedule and the pressures of his work and the importance of his work. He still made himself available for a call. And it was just it was