ImPACT Concussion Management Program, News (London Junior Knights)

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ImPACT Concussion Management Program
Submitted By RYAN PYETTE, The London Free Press on Friday, June 3, 2011
The London Junior Knights were Canada's first minor hockey organization to make the ImPACT concussion management program mandatory last season.

Grassroots lead on head shots

HEALTH: Concussions are lurking everything, ruining the game of hockey

Eric Lindros lies on the ice after he was injured on a check to the head.

This is one of the most unfortunate eras in hockey history.

Head shots and concussions are ruining the game and affecting outcomes at every level.

The Vancouver-Boston Stanley Cup final deserves an asterisk because the NHL's best player -- Sidney Crosby -- was injured and couldn't compete.

The Memorial Cup wasn't the same once Owen Sound Attack star Joey Hishon was erased early on by a vicious Brayden McNabb elbow.

Hockey's power brokers are under fire. This week in the Ontario legislature, MPP Bill Murdoch, whose riding includes Owen Sound, demanded Canadian Hockey League president David Branch and the offending officials resign for "failing to protect the players" in Mississauga.

And though the often eye-glazing concussion issue can be buried -- Eric Lindros's take on the subject in Maclean's magazine was usurped by the Phoenix Coyotes circus and the news that Winnipeg is back in the NHL -- it isn't going to solve itself.

Concussions are lurking everywhere.

They're in the minor programs, where one London Junior Knights bantam team had a mind-boggling seven sufferers this past season.

They're even infecting the officials' ranks.

The OHL went without one of its veteran referees for the latter half of this season because of concussion. London's Brad Beer saw a 16-year streak of calling playoff games come to a halt after he was injured in Windsor.

"I had a game in Barrie the next night," Beer said, "and I wasn't able to finish it. I went to the hospital to get checked out and then was lucky good old Hasty (linesman Kevin Hastings) could drive me home."

Junior hockey officials, as it was duly noted during the Memorial Cup blunders, aren't full-time whistle-blowers. They're covered by Hockey Canada insurance, but they still have to earn a living.

Beer, in the injury aftermath, had trouble staring at his computer screen at work and missed practices for the Junior Knights pee wee team he coached.

The pros are backed by their unions and treated by team medical personnel. When it comes to concussions, the millionaires are playing with a better deck than the part-timer, the volunteer or the kid skater.

There are signs the sport is starting to emerge from the Stone Age on this issue - at least at the grassroots level.

The London Junior Knights were Canada's first minor hockey organization to make the ImPACT concussion management program mandatory last season. They have been flooded with queries from associations about the experience "It's the most important thing we've done," said Junior Knights board member Kevin Gardner, the lead on the project. "Concussions are the biggest talking point in the game right now. It was a natural to have this and we've been able to provide feedback to a number of organizations looking to get on board.

"Guelph, I know, talked to us and they have already made it mandatory for the 2011-12 season."

The ImPACT neurocognitive test, which establishes a player's baseline, is administered by the Clinical Medicine Research Group in Canada. Johnny Chehade, the former Western Mustangs star linebacker, is a director for the organization.

It's an easy sell in London since a $25 fee to take part in the 20-minute online test grants injured players access to the world-renowned Fowler-Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic.

"Every concussion is different and kids' brains recover differently from adults," Chehade said, "so that's why it's key that starting at the age of 10 anyone who plays at-risk sports establishes their baseline.

"The quote that Kevin Gardner told me, which has always stuck is, 'This is too important; instead of buying the $200 composite stick, we'll get the $175 one and pay for the ImPACT test.' "

Hockey Canada has vowed more stiff penalties in minor and women's hockey and a zero-tolerance approach. All head contact will be punished and penalties can include ejections.

Of course, all this would work better if the lead came from the top of the game -- the NHL and junior ranks. Kids imitate what they see on TV.

The only thing more unfortunate than a pro career ended too soon is a worthy player never getting the chance to reach the big stage because of a head shot or concussion.

--- --- ---


ImPACT test

  • measure attention span, working memory, sustained and selective attention time, response variability, non-verbal problem solving, reaction time. 
  • measure player symptoms
  • assists clinicians and trainers in difficult return-to-play decisions  
  • results can be e-mailed for fast consultation by a neuropsychologist  
  • stored data for repeat testing

Hockey Canada's new head shot rules

  • checking to the head penalty replaced by head contact
  • any contact with the head penalized, whether intentional or not
  • player can be ejected and penalties move to double minor and a major based on violence, depending on referee discretion

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