BOB DUFF: LOCAL HOCKEY ASSOCIATION POLICY TACKLES CONCUSSION PROBLEM

The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff wrote this excellent article on concussions and how one local minor hockey association is approaching this vitally important situation.  How about the GOJHL?  Our loop has been known as a forward thinking group that historically has taken a pro-active approach to important issues, often well before other leagues even considered the topic.  What about baseline testing for all of our players?  Are we going to wait until a tragedy occurs before something is done?  Baseline testing has been done in the Western Conference in the past under former Strathroy Rocket president David Honsberger, but that was well over 10 years ago.  The hockey club’s sports psychologist, Dr. Howard Granville, provided the testing.  What about now?

Bob Duff:  Local Hockey Association Policy Tackles Concussion Problem – The Windsor Star

When the Tecumseh-Shoreline Minor Hockey Association opted to implement its own concussion policy, no one had to explain the value to Dani Probert.

She needed no encouragement to bring her son Jack in to complete a voluntary baseline test that was being offered free of charge to all players in the association.

When her husband, legendary Detroit Red Wings tough guy Bob Probert of Windsor died in 2010, Probert donated her husband’s brain to Boston’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy and chronic traumatic encephalopathy was discovered.

“When I donated Bob’s brain, I was asked a lot of questions about what I wanted to see changed, and it was just too soon for that question to be answered,” Probert said. “I didn’t know what I wanted from it. I heard about the baseline testing a few years ago from friends in the (United) States and it made perfect sense. That’s exactly what I would want.”

The testing and the concussion policy were instituted this season by TSMHA president Pete Morassutti. It is designed and administered by Mark Dubreuil, a chiropractor who operates the Tilbury Rehab Centre and Tecumseh’s CARE Concussion Centre and whose son Blake is a midget minor player in Tecumseh.

“In the summer, Pete and I were just talking hockey one day,” Dubreuil said. “I had been taking (concussion training) courses in the U.S. I’d been thinking about it and proposed to him what I would do. I put something together for him, he presented it to the board, and it was approved.”

To the best of their knowledge, they are the first local amateur sports organization to operate with a specific concussion protocol in place, but soon, they may have plenty of company.

Ontario politicians are in the process of establishing a committee to study the impact of head injuries in youth sports. This is the result of Rowan’s Law, a bill named in memory of Rowan Stringer, a 17-year-old Ottawa high school student who died in 2013 after suffering multiple concussions playing rugby. If as expected the bill passes into law, it will make concussion policies mandatory for every Ontario sports organizations.

“We’re already a step ahead of the game,” Morassutti said. “Being proactive — yeah we’re up there. But we’re out for the greater good. Hockey is fun, but the lives of the kids are what matters in the long run.”

After designing their policy, the TSMHA had it vetted by local physicians with expertise in head trauma injuries and by lawyers.

The policy calls for the immediate removal from the ice of any player who suffers a head injury, and immediate notification of the episode to the player’s parents. From there, they are to be evaluated by a medical professional.

After that, the six-step policy established in 2008 at the Zurich International Conference on Concussion in Sport is followed:

  1. No activity
  2. Light aerobic exercise
  3. Sport-specific exercise
  4. Non-contact training drills
  5. Full contact practice
  6. Return to play

Dubreuil also provided sessions to all coaches and trainers, supplying educations and resource material on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussion and what steps to take if they believe a player is concussed. An open house was offered to all parents interested in finding out more about brain trauma.

The decision to provide the baseline test was an option the TSMHA decided on to take matters one step further, footing the bill for 100 units of what is called an ImPACT Test. Times were set up and the tests were offered to any player 12 or older, since no testing program currently exists for younger players.

“It’s a neuro-cognitive test,” Dubreuil explained. “It tests their visual memory, their verbal memory, their reaction time, their visual processing speed. These are things that you can’t really cheat on.”

By establishing a base for each player, when a concussion is suffered, it makes it easier to determine their rate of recovery.

“They know something’s wrong,” said Diane Glover, whose son Scott, a midget minor player, was able to draw upon his baseline test for comparison when he suffered a concussion earlier this season. “They have a sense of what’s going on.”

Scott had a previous concussion so when he got hit again the Glovers immediately had him assessed.

“He didn’t seem to have any worse symptoms than he had before but we wanted to make sure because it’s really not a joking matter,” Diane Glover said. “We went in for an assessment and did some tests and he had some reactions to some of the tests he did.”

Often, the headaches and dizziness can subside in a few days, but that doesn’t mean the brain is fully healed.

“You may be symptom-free in three days but it may take your brain seven days to fully heal,” Dubreuil said.

On top of the baseline test, Dubreuil provided the Glovers with exercises Scott could perform at home that would establish his level of recovery.

“I liked that because we could tell by doing the exercises whether we were headed in the right direction,” Diane Glover said. “Prior times, the doctor would just say: ‘No physical activity for two weeks and then we’ll see what happens after that.’”

The third time he took his baseline test, Scott actually scored higher than he had at the start of the season. Symptom-free, he has resumed playing, one of four players treated this season by Dubreuil who have returned to the ice without further episodes of concussion.

Jack Probert, also a midget minor player, was sidelined by a concussion earlier in December.

“Jack’s had two concussions in six weeks,” Dani Probert said. “If there’s anything significant, if it’s worse, we’d have to sit down and seriously talk about whether it’s worth him continuing to play, or what the next step would be.”

“There’s so much information out there now as opposed to when Bob played. I don’t ever recall him having a concussion, though I’m sure he did. It was treated more like a headache. Take a couple of aspirin and go home.”

Dubreuil said an established concussion policy can prevent players from returning too soon and perhaps suffering a more severe concussion.

“It’s taking the choice out of their hands and their parents’ hands,” Dubreuil said. “You’ve got to protect the players. They all want to play. This can be a serious injury, so let’s treat it appropriately and make sure they’re fully healed before they return to the ice, and then they shouldn’t have any unforeseeable problems in the near future.”

(photo credit – Dani Probert is pictured at her Lakeshore home in this 2011 file photo – by Tyler Brownbridge)

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