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Dr. Charles Tator - University Health Network. Toronto, ON, CA

Dr. Charles Tator Dr. Charles Tator

Neurosurgeon, Krembil Neuroscience Centre | University Health Network

Toronto, ON, CANADA

World renowned expert on concussion and spinal cord injury, prevention and treatment research



Dr. Charles Tator Publication Dr. Charles Tator Publication Dr. Charles Tator Publication





Dr. Tator’s research transformed our world’s understanding of spinal cord injury. He developed one of the first experimental models of spinal cord injury in small laboratory animals in 1978. He showed that post-traumatic ischemia is a major secondary injury mechanism. He invented the inclined plane technique of functional assessment. Dr. Tator was one of the first to recognize the proliferation of endogenous stem cells in the injured adult mammalian spinal cord, and to assess the therapeutic value of transplantation of adult spinal cord derived stem cells after injury. He developed the first acute spinal cord injury unit in Canada, and he is known for the introduction of halo vests for treatment.

The breadth of Dr. Tator’s influence is perhaps best manifested by his work in prevention, particularly related to sports and recreation. His advocacy efforts resulted in the adoption of new legislation and guidelines to prevent spinal cord injury in hockey. In 1992, he founded ThinkFirst Canada, an organization that educates young people about safety.

A dedicated, kind and skillful surgeon, Dr. Tator’s loyalty to his patients is legendary. As chair of the division of neurosurgery at the University of Toronto (1989-1999), Dr. Tator fostered the growth of Canada’s surgical scientist training program, believing that aspiring academic surgeons should train in science at the highest level. His program gained national prominence and was admired by neurosurgical departments across Canada.

Dr. Tator played a key role in developing the Canadian Brain and Nerve Health Coalition (2002) which brought Canadian organizations together to promote increased research and public awareness of neurological conditions. Among many awards, Dr. Tator was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada (2000) and inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame (2003).

Industry Expertise (8)

Health and Wellness Research Education/Learning Health Care - Services Health Care - Providers Sport - Professional Health Care - Facilities Safety

Areas of Expertise (6)

Concussion Spine Neurosurgery Neuroscience Injury Prevention Spinal Cord Research

Accomplishments (4)

Terry Fox Hall of Fame (professional)


Awarded to "outstanding Canadians who have made extraordinary contributions to enriching the quality of life for people with physical disabilities".

Order of Canada (professional)


Elected to Canada's second highest honour for merit.

Former Chairman, Division of Neurosurgery, University of Toronto (professional)


Having 29 clinical faculty, 11 research faculty, 35 residents and 20 fellows, the University of Toronto Division of Neurosurgery is among the largest neurosurgical training programs in the world. Its four teaching hospitals (St. Michael’s, Sunnybrook, Toronto Western and the Hospital for Sick Children), each with their individual expertise and culture, provide diversity and breadth of experience and opportunities for residents.

Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (professional)


The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame recognizes and celebrates Canadian heroes whose work has advanced health, thereby inspiring the pursuit of careers in the health sciences.

Education (3)

University of Toronto: Graduate Studies, Neuropathology 1965

University of Toronto: M.Sc. / Ph.D., Neuropathology 1965

University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine: MD, Medicine

Affiliations (4)

  • Professor Department of Surgery University of Toronto
  • Founder ThinkFirst Canada
  • Board Member Parachute Canada
  • Senior Scientist Toronto Western Research Institute

Media Appearances (32)

Protecting the brain, one sticker at a time

The Globe and Mail  online


He speaks to schools on behalf of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and to schools and sports organizations for the ThinkFirst Injury Prevention Strategy for Youth (TIPSY), an injury-prevention program that is connected to Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital and Dr. Charles Tator, the neurosurgeon who is Canada’s leading advocate for prevention of head injuries in sport...

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Dr. Charles Tator publishes landmark summary on concussion treatment

The Brain Campaign  online


The Canadian Medical Association Journal has published an article by Dr. Charles Tator, founder of the Canadian Sport Concussion Project at UHN’s Krembil Neuroscience Centre. Dr. Tator’s article, “Current Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of Concussions and Their Consequences,” summarizes what medical experts in the field agree has been learned about concussions and their effects over the last decade, and how to properly manage them...

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Dr. Charles H. Tator, MD PhD: Concussions and their consequences: current diagnosis, management and prevention

The Sandbox Project  online


Concussion is the most common type of mild traumatic brain injury and can have serious consequences. Not just confined to high-profile athletes, concussions are frequent in all age groups and in a variety of settings, such as the work environment, motor vehicle crashes, sports and recreation, and falls at home among older people. Concussion is defined by the International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sports as “a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by biomechanical forces.” Concussion is the preferred term because of its familiarity to the public...

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Long-term effects of concussions misunderstood: Toronto doctor

The Toronto Star  online


Dr. Charles Tator at Toronto Western Hospital has made it his mission to understand the long-term effects of concussions, as well as educate doctors and the public about preventing the common — but potentially deadly — head injuries. The neuroscientist has published a new guide to treating and preventing concussions in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. He hopes it will correct the dangerous misconceptions held by many doctors and members of the public...

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Concussions: 10 Things You Didn't Know

UHN  online


In the 10 Things You Didn't Know About Concussions, UHNews asked people on the streets of Toronto these questions and more. Then we had TSN analyst and CFL Hall of Famer Matt Dunigan, whose career was ended by concussions, answer those questions with renowned concussion expert Dr. Charles Tator...

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Toronto teen teams up with Dr. Charles Tator for concussion answers

The Toronto Star  online


That fear of the unknown, when, or even if, she would recover and the fact none of the doctors and specialists she saw could help her allay it, motivated Haggart to team up with well-known Toronto neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Tator in search of those elusive answers...

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Concussion: Q&A with Dr. Charles Tator

CBCNews  online


Kelly Crowe, health reporter for CBC, talks with Dr. Charles Tator, a concussion and brain injury expert at Toronto Western Hospital who advocates for stronger regulations around head shots in hockey. The interview is abridged...

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Player safety: The elephant in the NHL negotiation room

Globe and Mail  online


There is opportunity here.

In all the dreary nuts-and-bolts talk about a new collective agreement between NHL owners and players we hear endlessly about share of revenues and the length and structure of contracts – but nothing at all about what, only one year ago, was hockey’s biggest issue:

Player safety.

Last month there was a major symposium at Toronto Western Hospital’s Krembil Neuroscience Centre. Marc Savard, the brilliant Boston Bruins centre who appears to have lost his career to a headhunter’s foolishness, has joined the advisory board of the Canadian Sports Concussion Project headed by Dr. Charles Tator.

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Health news in 2012: It was all about the brain

Globe and Mail  online


It could be remembered as the year of the brain.

News headlines in 2012 were often dominated by stories about the vital organ, ranging from the legal battle over the fate of a comatose patient to studies that highlighted long-term brain damage caused by multiple concussions – a concern for both athletes and kids engaged in contact sports.

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Ex-NFLers may be more likely to be cognitively impaired, study finds

Globe and Mail  online


Former professional football players may be more likely to develop cognitive impairment and depression as they grow older than peers of the same age who were not engaged in the rough and tumble sport, research suggests.

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Scientists discover 'holy grail' of concussion-linked CTE research

CTV News  tv


It's been called the “holy grail” of brain research and now, it may have been found.
U.S. scientists say they have developed a way to detect the concussion-related brain disease called CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, in living athletes.

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Concussion doctor calls for radical changes to youth sports

The Windsor Star  online


Imagine children under 14 playing flag football instead of tackle, hockey without body checking and soccer without heading the ball.

It may sound like heresy to old-school sports fans, but neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Cantu suggests such changes are the single most positive step that could be taken to reduce concussions among young athletes.

Dr. Charles Tator, a neurosurgeon at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at Toronto Western Hospital and leader of the Canadian Sports Concussion Project, said age restrictions on contact sports are an important first step.

However, Tator feels attitude adjustments about how youth sports are played are also needed.

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Concussion concerns fuel desire for youth hockey bodychecking ban: Survey

Globe and Mail  online


Canadians are open to blowing the whistle on bodychecking in minor hockey.

A new survey conducted on behalf of the Rick Hansen Institute says that four out of five Canadian adults consider the national game an excellent activity for children, but:

87 per cent feel that hockey carries a “significant risk” of head, neck and brain injury, higher than football (82 per cent), skiing/snowboarding (74 per cent) or soccer (28 per cent).

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Canadians favour larger ice surface if change would make hockey safer

Globe and Mail  online


One of the online questions put to the 2,017 Canadian adults by pollster Angus Reid asked about the size of the ice surface.

We have known for a decade that there are fewer collisions on the Olympic ice than on the NHL ice. In 2004, Toronto Western Hospital neurologist Dr. Richard Wennberg published a study that analyzed video from two recent Stanley Cup finals and compared them to play at the world junior championship and Olympics on the larger ice.

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Leafs sending wrong message with combative style, critics say

National Post  online


Dr. Charles Tator went on to play hockey in high school, and again in university. He still attends games when he can, usually sitting behind the home team’s net at the Air Canada Centre. He is a hockey fan, but he is not a fan of the identity his childhood team adopted at some point early this season, when fighting became a core character trait.

“You know what? My heart races,” said Dr. Tator, who is based out of Toronto Western Hospital. “I worry about that brain that is being pummelled. It really is a sad event, to me, when it happens. Because virtually every day in my practice, I see people who have had brain injuries of one sort or another, and these folks suffer terribly.”

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Have your say: How do we teach sportsmanship in a sport with designated fighters?

Globe and Mail  online


This week’s question: How do we teach sportsmanship to our kids when violence in professional sports often rules the day, and is sanctioned by the sporting culture?

The experts:

Charles Tator, director of the Sports Concussion Project at Toronto Western Hospital

“Hockey is a great game for teaching young people sportsmanship. We must get the pro leagues and players to participate in building strong, skilled and respectful adults, rather than brawlers, punchers and head hitters. The first step would be strict anti-brain-hit rules and enforcement, including increasing suspensions for the player and coach for each infraction, up to lifetime bans for a third brain hit.”

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Ontario budget 2013: Victims’ advocates worry about auto insurance reform

Toronto Star  online


Medical professionals and litigation lawyers say an important constituency is being left out of the debate over Ontario auto insurance premiums: accident victims.
The NDP has made a 15-per cent cut to premiums one of its key demands to support a Liberal budget that will be tabled May 2. Finance Minister has said the budget will include measures to gradually reduce premiums in some form.
The push for lower premiums is sure to be popular with drivers. But the medical professionals who treat accident victims and lawyers who advocate for them predict the result will be lower benefits for many of those injured in car accidents.

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Bike helmets should address concussion risk, scientists say

CBC News  online


While sports medicine has gained a deeper understanding of head injuries in recent years, protective headgear hasn't kept pace, and that is particularly true when it comes to bicycle helmets, experts in the field tell CBC News.

Bike helmets were designed to protect against catastrophic head injuries like skull fractures, lacerations or contusions on the brain, which they do.

However, as the understanding of concussions has advanced significantly in recent years, basic helmet design has not, and the standard that North American helmet manufacturers follow has not changed since 1999.

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New NHL bodychecking rules didn't reduce concussion rates: study

CTV News  online


A recent NHL rule change designed to cut down on the number of concussions in the league hasn't made a difference, a new study suggests.
The research suggests the rule, which outlawed bodychecks aimed at the head and checking from a player's blind side, has not led to lower concussion rates among pro hockey players since it came into force in the 2010-11 season.

Dr. Charles Tator, a brain surgeon with Toronto Western Hospital, said the change's lack of impact has an effect not just in the arenas of the National Hockey League, but on rinks where kids who dream of making it to the NHL some day emulate their professional heroes.

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Brain Talk with medical Hall Of Famer

Island Sports News  online


Dr. Charles Tator is passionate about hockey and is a Hall of Famer, in his own right—The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, that is.

And Dr. Tator has been on a mission with the Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey Program – alongside Cassie Campbell and Bobby Orr – to raise awareness about concussions and to keep players safe.

Dr. Tator is a brain surgeon and a volunteer with two national injury prevention programs: ThinkFirst Canada (which he founded in 1992) and Parachute Canada.

He says the focus of his mission is not so much to put people's brains back together after the injury has happened, but to help prevent injuries before they happen.

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Paralyzed man walks again

CTV News Channel  tv


A Bulgarian man who was paralyzed from the chest down after a knife attack is now able to walk again after undergoing a pioneering stem cell transplant surgery. The transplanted stem cells – called olfactory ensheathing cells (OEC) and olfactory nerve fibroblasts (ONF) – were taken from cells in the brain and injected into the man’s spinal cord. Dr. Charles Tator, a neurosurgeon at Toronto Western Hospital, says what is so remarkable about OEC and ONF cells are that they have the ability to regenerate quite quickly. “I would like to see this strategy pursued because they have only tried it in one patient and the results look promising,” Dr. Tator said. “But you can’t jump to conclusions on only one patient.”

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Shoalts: League secrecy clouds concussion picture

Globe and Mail  online


Conversations with NHL executives, medical professionals who treat concussions and activists in the field failed to produce a definitive answer as to whether the NHL concussion crisis has receded.

“My impression is that there are in fact fewer,” said Dr. Charles Tator, a concussion expert at Toronto Western Hospital, who cited fewer interview requests as the indication this season’s numbers declined. “You have to wonder whether it’s the measures the NHL adopted, whether instructions have gone out to reduce [hits] to the head or whether the lawsuits levelled against the NHL have taken their toll.

Both Tator and a fellow concussion expert, Dr. Paul Echlin of Burlington, Ont., think the NHL still needs to do more with its concussion protocol.

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Firm tackles concussion research

The Chronicle Herald  online


f there were people involved with hockey in Nova Scotia who did not understand the potential implications of concussions, that sure changed in 2011 when Sidney Crosby’s career was temporarily sidelined after a couple of high-impact head injuries.

With the Pittsburgh Penguins star off the ice for months, the word concussion suddenly became part of the vocabularies of many fans of the sport as research gained traction.

Now a Halifax company, Mindful Scientific Inc., has joined one of North America’s top concussion treatment and research teams to assist in the study of potential long-term implications of the injury.

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NHL makes progress on concussions, but needs to do more to protect players from themselves

Yahoo News  online


We’ve heard the horror stories about concussions. We know more than ever before about them, even if the science still has a long way to go to pin down their short- and long-term effects. Yet the players still want to play, especially in the playoffs – even when they are going through the horrors, even though they know the risk, at least on some level.
But the league still faces serious concussion problems – in perception and reality.
The league looks bad when it won’t give details about discipline for violating protocol and won’t back up its claims about concussion declines with hard data, even if it can’t do so for privacy and legal reasons. At least three concussion lawsuits are pending, claiming the league didn't do enough in the past.

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Debate: Should children be banned from contact sports? Read and vote

Globe and Mail  online


Of every 1,000 children, between three and five will suffer a concussion each year. Worse, there are few effective treatments for traumatic brain injury, aside from rest and pain medication. As such, more and more Canadian parents are enrolling their children in safer sports, and turning their backs on hockey and other body contact sports. In this online debate, two safety experts weigh in with their opinions on whether children should continue to play contact sports. Vote on the argument that you find most persuasive.

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Drug delivery: Brain food

Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science  online


The key to stroke recovery is to coax the brain cells to heal without creating more damage in the process. A clever delivery system may just do the trick.

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The concussion conundrum

Winnipeg Free Press  online


Awareness is improving, but exactly how the brain is damaged remains a medical mystery.

Dr. Tator calls for a three-pronged approach to prevention of concussions in collision sports: primary, secondary and tertiary. This includes reducing head-to-head contact, proper diagnosis through best practices and recommending retirement in selected cases after repeated concussions.

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Canadian minds battle to unlock concussion mysteries: Arthur

Toronto Star  online


The slide shows dots of tau protein, but only dots, spread apart. Tau is the key element of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, the neurological disease that has been linked to brain trauma in football and hockey. In severe cases the tau clusters around neurons and, when stained properly, you can see it leaching throughout a dissected brain.

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Leafs’ Daniel Winnik eager to get back to proving his worth: Feschuk

Toronto Star  online


In the time since his head met the ice in a violent collision, Maple Leafs forward Daniel Winnik says he has experienced no concussion symptoms. So after missing a pair of games for what he called “precautionary reasons,” he skated alone on Monday before rejoining his teammates for practice Tuesday. He hopes to be in the lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Bruins. Head coach Randy Carlyle said it’ll be a game-time decision.

One of Canada’s foremost experts on concussions will tell you Winnik is wrong about his assessment.
“It is definitely a concussion,” Dr. Charles Tator, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Toronto, wrote in an email referring to Winnik’s case. “Any impact that leads to loss of consciousness is at least a concussion (and could be a more serious injury) like a brain bruise or even a blood clot.”

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Canada should follow Ontario’s lead in student concussion management policy

Globe and Mail  online


Canada should follow Ontario’s lead in student concussion management policy, says Dr. Charles Tator, neurosurgeon at Toronto Western Hospital and research lead for the Canadian Sports Concussion Project. In January 2015, Ontario will become the only province to have an organized plan to deal with concussions that occur at school. School boards across the province will be required to have concussion programs in place to educate parents, students, teachers and coaches about concussions and policies to manage them. This is a great step forward for Canada, says Dr. Tator.

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Cassie Campbell and Dr. Tator team up on concussion awareness

Ottawa Citizen  online


Two-time Olympic hockey gold medalist Cassie Campbell-Pascall is teaming up with Dr. Charles Tator, neurosurgeon at Toronto Western Hospital, to raise awareness about concussions in hockey. The sport can be very safe, but it’s up to all involved to keep it that way, says Dr. Tator. Trainers and officials need to know how to prevent and treat concussions. “Safety is the best policy,” he says.

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A valuable gift

CTV News  online


Researchers with the Canadian Sports Concussion Project will be studying the brain of former Calgary Stampeders football player, John Forzani, who passed away last week. The project led by Dr. Charles Tator, neurosurgeon at Toronto Western Hospital, is believed to be the world’s first study of the long-term effects of concussions on professional football players. The big question remains: why do concussions harm some brains and not others? According to Dr. Lili-Naz Hazrati, neuropathologist at the University Health Network, the project needs a minimum of 50 brains answer concussion questions and protect the brains of young athletes.

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Event Appearances (2)

Keynote Speaker

SicKids Centre for Brain & Behaviour Biennial Conference  Toronto, ON.


Concussions and Other Brain Injuries in Athletes

APN/NP Clinical Conference Day  Toronto, ON.


Patents (1)

Blends of temperature sensitive and anionic polymers for drug delivery

US 7767656 B2


A physical blend of inverse thermal gelling and shear-thinning, thixotropic polymers that has a lower gelation temperature than the thermal gelling polymer alone is provided. The blend results in an injectable hydrogel that does not flow freely at room temperature, but is injectable due to its shear-thinning properties. The thermal-gelling properties of the polymer promote a more mechanically stable gel at body temperature than at room temperature. The polymer matrix gel has inherent therapeutic benefit and can also be used as a drug delivery vehicle for localized release of therapeutic agents.

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Articles (6)

Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells for the repair of central nervous system injury Bone Marrow Transplantation


Transplantation of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) into the injured brain or spinal cord may provide therapeutic benefit. Several models of central nervous system (CNS) injury have been examined, including that of ischemic stroke, ...

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Normal and abnormal calcium homeostasis in neurons: a basis for the pathophysiology of traumatic and ischemic central nervous system injury Neurosurgery


Clinical recovery after central nervous system (CNS) trauma or ischemia may be limited by a neural injury process that is triggered and perpetuated at the cellular level, rather than by a lesion amenable to surgical repair. It is widely thought that one such ...

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The relationships among the severity of spinal cord injury, residual neurological function, axon counts, and counts of retrogradely labeled neurons after experimental … Experimental Neurology


Substantial residual neurological function may persist after spinal cord injury (SCI) with survival of as few as 5–10% of the original number of axons. A detailed understanding of the relationships among the severity of injury, the number and origin of surviving axons at the ...

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Update on the pathophysiology and pathology of acute spinal cord injury Brain Pathology


There is evidence from both clinical and experimental studies that the spinal cord suffers both primary and secondary damage after acute spinal cord injury. The pathophysiology of secondary injury involves a multitude of cellular and molecular events which progress ...

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Review of the secondary injury theory of acute spinal cord trauma with emphasis on vascular mechanisms Journal of Neurosurgery


In patients with spinal cord injury, the primary or mechanical trauma seldom causes total transection, even though the functional loss may be complete. In addition, biochemical and pathological changes in the cord may worsen after injury. To explain these phenomena, ...

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Objective clinical assessment of motor function after experimental spinal cord injury in the rat Journal of Neurosurgery


A new method was developed for the clinical assessment of motor function in rats after experimental spinal cord injury. The method consists of placing the animal on an inclined plane which can be adjusted to provide a slope of varying grade, and then assessing the ...

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