Faces of Concussion

Here at Concussion-U we think it is important for people to have the opportunity to share their experiences with others. Faces of Concussion was designed to empower young athletes and allow them to tell their story – a story that is becoming all too common. This month we are featuring Matt Kippenhuck.

Matt’s Story

ConcussionU blog Matt Kippenhuck

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Faces of Concussion

The Concussion-U team will be presenting our work at the Parachute Canada Safe Communities Teleconference next month. We are excited to present the different educational presentations, research, and community outreach projects we have been working on over the last year.

Faces Presentation

One of our most innovative projects has been ‘Faces of Concussion.’ This is a newsletter which features one athlete each month who has been directly impacted by concussion. We designed ‘Faces of Concussion’ to empower athletes to share their story – a story which is becoming all too common. We hope this project will help create a community of support for athletes during these tough times. Thank-you to all the athletes that have shared their story and made this project a success!

Faces of Concussion

Here at Concussion-U we think it is important for people to have the opportunity to share their experiences with others. Faces of Concussion was designed to empower young athletes and allow them to tell their story – a story that is becoming all too common. This month we are featuring New Brunswick athlete, Molly MacDermaid.

Molly’s Story

ConcussionU blog Molly MacDermaidIf you would like to share YOUR story, send us a message at concussionu@mun.ca! We would love to hear from you.

Concussions: Listen To Your Brain

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Andrew Pearcey: Assistant Director and Player Representative at Xtreme Hockey

 Some of you may know Andrew Pearcey from his time playing Senior Hockey in Newfoundland and Labrador. Others may know him from his role with Xtreme hockey, where he has been teaching kids the basics of hockey and skating since his early teens. What some of you may not know is that Andrew was recently forced to retire from Senior Hockey following a concussion he suffered during playoffs last March. This was a tough pill to swallow for Andrew, who was named league MVP in 2010 and took home 3 Herder Memorial Trophies in 8 seasons. But when it came down to it, Andrew made the choice to  put his health before the game and retire from senior hockey.

Concussion-U is excited to share his views on the topic of head injuries in sport in a perspective piece he wrote for us:

 

Concussions: listen to your brain

It was a power play for my provincial senior AAA team. I jumped over the boards and picked up an outlet pass from a defenseman in full speed. I surveyed the ice, crossed the opposing blue line and took the puck wide. I had a half step on the defenseman, but chose to take the puck around the net. One of my linemates and I had been working on a play that had me dropping the puck to the short side as I went around the net in an attempt to get the goalie and defenseman to shift out of the way for an easy goal. The play succeeded; we scored. Little did I know that it would be the last assist of my competitive hockey career.

The penalty had expired just as I crossed the blue line; I didn’t register the new skater before going around the net and contorting my body into a vulnerable position to lay the puck back to the short side. Bang. My night was over.

After spending four weeks in dark rooms, away from the gym and work, and not being able to attend university classes due to thirteen straight days of migraine headaches, it was time to walk away from the version of the game that I loved so much. I had lost that “edge”.

Contact sport participants often consider themselves to be gladiators, soldiers, and creatures of war. You are conditioned to believe this by the environment that surrounds these types of sports. The masculinity associated with contact sports makes players believe that they have to play hurt and injured. I can still remember coaches giving pre-game speeches; “play through the pain” or “a certain body part is a long way from the heart”. Sorry, coach. Although your brain is not the closest part of the body to the heart, it controls the heart. Literally, and figuratively.

I strongly urge amateur players at all age levels to block out the internal and external pressures that accompany the healing process with concussions, and to make the right choice in delaying your return to action if you feel that you are not ready to play.

At the supremely competitive levels of hockey such as junior AAA, major junior, and Senior AAA, hockey is a business to the coaches, upper management, and support staff. At the end of the day, their main focus is to ice a team every night that can win a championship, put butts in the seats, and keep their jobs. Many amateur hockey leagues do not do baseline testing to see if you have recovered from a concussion, so coaches and management go on an estimated timeline. After a week or two, they expect you to be back out there, giving and taking checks, and “playing tough” because that is what athletes who play contact sports are supposed to do. Show no pain, no weakness. Get out there and help put another championship banner in the rafters, which will keep the revenues steady at the box office. I will give credit to amateur and post secondary institutions for improving their concussion protocols over the last decade, but not all leagues have adopted these policies.

Pressure to return to action can also come from teammates. Where concussions are so difficult to timetable a specific recovery period, teammates often look at a guy sitting out for longer than a couple weeks for a concussion as being “soft”. Soft is a word to describe weakness in contact sports, a term no one ever wants to be pegged with. Soft can get you traded, benched, or sent to a lower level. Locker rooms have a social component; players want to be accepted and to fit in with their teammates. Coming back quicker than expected from an injury shows toughness and commitment to the group, which are attributes that other “gladiators” look for in their peers.

Internally, every amateur player wants to make the pros. Most kids growing up playing all-star sports dream about it. They play on the streets as their favorite NHL or NFL player, attend every summer development camp, and work hard every practice. The first serious concussion that I received came early in my first junior season. At the time, I was playing on the first line and was receiving offers to play NCAA Division I hockey at Dartmouth College. When I got hurt, I wanted to get back out there because I was afraid of losing my position on the first line. A decrease in ice time meant that I would not get seen as much by prospective scouts, which would possibly decrease my chances of furthering my aspirations to be a pro player. This internal pressure forces guys to return to action too soon, even though their brains tell them otherwise.

I have recently retired from competitive hockey, and as a member of the Xtreme Hockey staff, I am fortunate to be able to pass on wisdom and knowledge to players who have the dream that I once had. For those of you at the high levels of amateur contact sports, listen to your brain when it comes to concussions. Your brain is the engine that makes the body go; it is critical to every function that your body makes. There is not a thing that you will do in the run of your lifetime that does not require the use of your brain. Do not let coaches, management, your peers, or the pro dream get in the way of seeing that reality. Know the symptoms of a concussion by using the avenues that are at your disposal (Concussion-U/ credible internet sources). We are lucky to live in the information age, so take advantage of that. Know the consequences of returning to action before being fully healed, and the negative short and long term effects that this can have on your brain. Before returning to action, make sure you see a doctor to make sure it is safe to get back on the ice. Even the best athletes have a shelf life, and once the game waves goodbye, they have to go find work amongst civilians. Less than one percent of players ever make the pros to begin with! So before you strap on the shoulder pads and gear up for your first game back from a concussion, listen to your brain.

AP

concussionU logo for shirts 2014

Let’s Help Make Sports Safer for Youth #HeadsUp

 

If you would like to be featured on our website, send us an email at concussionu@mun.ca! We would love to share your story.

 

Faces of Concussion

Here at Concussion-U we think it is important for people to have the opportunity to share their experiences with others. Faces of Concussion was designed to empower young athletes and allow them to tell their story – a story that is becoming all too common. This month we are featuring Garrett Vincent.

Garrett’s Story

ConcussionU Blog Garrett Vincent

If you would like to share YOUR story, send us a message at concussionu@mun.ca! We would love to hear from you.

Faces of Concussion

Here at Concussion-U we think it is important for people to have the opportunity to share their experiences with others. Faces of Concussion was designed to empower young athletes and allow them to tell their story – a story that is becoming all too common.

David’s Story

ConcussionU Blog DBS

If you would like to share YOUR story, send us a message at concussionu@mun.ca! We would love to hear from you.

 

 

 

Faces of Concussion

Here at Concussion-U we think it is important for people to have the opportunity to share their experiences with others. Faces of Concussion was designed to empower young athletes and allow them to tell their story – a story that is becoming all too common.

Andrew’s Story

ConcussionU Blog Andrew Pearcey

If you would like to share YOUR story, send us a message at concussionu@mun.ca! We would love to hear from you.

How Get Involved With The Concussion-U Team

Concussion-U has 3 main goals: Education, Awareness, and Outreach.

Concussionu Goals

1. Some of the risk factors for a concussion include age (people under the age of 18 are at a higher risk than adults), gender (females are at a higher risk than males), playing a high risk sport and a previous history of concussions. Here at Concussion-U we are trying to help provide accessible, up to date information for these populations. We have designed interactive, sports-specific educational presentations to provide young athletes with the information they need to stay safe. If you know a team that might be interested in seeing a Concussion-U presentation, send us an email at concussionu@mun.ca.

Presentation

Concussion-U presenting to the Midget AAA Privateers (Oct. 2014)

 

2. We want to increase the awareness of sports-related concussions because we believe it is an important factor in health advocacy and promotion. We have created a Website, Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram account to keep people informed and up to date. If you want to learn more about concussions or what we are doing here at Concussion-U here’s how:

WebsiteFacebook TwitterInstagram

Check out our website at http://www.concussionu.ca

Like our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/concussionu

Follow us on Twitter @concussionu

Follow us on Instagram @concussion_u

3. We want to engage local members of the athletic community and invite those who have suffered a concussion to share their experiences with others. We hope that providing a way for local athletes to share their story will unite and empower these individuals. To see some of the stories we have already featured, check out our testimonials page on our website. If you or someone you know would like to share your experience with concussions and have it featured on our website, send us an email at concussionu@mun.ca.

concussionU logo for shirts 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Help Make Sports Safer for Youth #HeadsUp

Faces of Concussion

After officially launching Concussion-U on social media last month, we had numerous athletes contact us to tell us how concussions have affected them. We realized how important it is for people to have the opportunity to share their experiences with others. Faces of Concussion was designed to empower young athletes and allow them to tell their story – a story that is becoming all too common.

 

Brad’s Story

ConcussionU Blog Brad YetmanIf you would like to share YOUR story, send us a message at concussionu@mun.ca.

Concussion – the invisible injury

We are very excited to share this article by Concussion-U’s very own, Matt Eagles. Last week Matt shared his experience with concussions with the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). The journal editors were quite impressed. Matt’s article was released on the CMAJ blog for medical reporting and reflections this week and it’s already gotten a lot of attention (over 900 shares on Facebook and 50 re-tweets!). Here’s the inside scoop on why Matt wrote this article:

Hockey taught me many life lessons: the value of hard work, the importance of determination, the ability to put the needs of a group ahead of my own, and how to work with others to achieve a shared goal. While I always knew my hockey career would not last forever, I never imagined it ending the way it did. Thankfully, the sport had one last lesson to teach me. Since I stopped playing I have made it my mission to help prevent others from having to make the choice between their brain and the sport that they love. I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Concussion-U. Together, Maria, David, Justin, Graeme, and myself are working towards increasing the awareness sports-related concussions with the goal of keeping young athletes safe.

 

Here is Matt’s original article:

CMJA BLOGS

Matt_Hockey

 Matt Eagles is a medical student at Memorial University, Newfoundland and Labrador (Class of 2017) and a former Major Junior and University hockey player. He is a founding member of Concussion-U.

On Saturday November 19, 2011 I took the ice for warm-up against the UPEI Panthers. It was just another night at the rink. My routine felt no different than it had for any of the other 300 or so games I played in my Major Junior and University Careers. What I did not know at the time was that this would be the last game of competitive hockey I would ever play.

In the second period, I suffered my third concussion in a ten-month span. I had gone through the recovery process in the past, and I figured that I would be fine in no time. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. When I tried to return to the classroom about a week later, I could not focus. If I tried to sit down and read, I would get headaches. By this point in my life I had shifted my dream from playing in the NHL to attending medical school. I quickly realized that my playing days might be numbered, and I sought expert advice. Both physicians and psychologists advised that I should walk away from the game. They said that continuing to play hockey would be putting my brain at risk for long-term impairment. Reluctantly, I heeded their counsel. My hockey career was over. Today I am a second year medical student at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Concussions are difficult injuries for many reasons. Concussion is, to all intents and purposes, an invisible injury. Athletes have no obvious signs of being injured when recovering from a concussion, unlike a broken leg or a dislocated shoulder. To make matters worse, we hockey players are a product of our culture. We are trained from a young age to play through injury, never show weakness, and sacrifice ourselves for the good of the team. How then can someone who looks completely healthy sit out of a game without feeling ashamed? I couldn’t.

My background has given me an appreciation for the burden these injuries put on a player. I did not want to admit to being concussed for fear I would be kept out the lineup. This fear was well founded. Any missed time for a hockey player is an opportunity for someone else to take his or her spot. Understandably, most players care more about what coaches think than the team doctor. If you add parental pressure to the mix, the warnings of the medical profession may not carry that much weight. For this reason, it is important to educate everyone involved in the sport on the dangers of concussions.

Minor hockey coaches are special people. They sacrifice huge amounts of time to teach young boys and girls the value of commitment, team play, and hard work. In many ways, coaches are like physicians. They prescribe team systems and rules, but rely on players to be compliant and buy in. Oftentimes this is good, and players learn how to work together to achieve a common goal. However, coaches are also fiercely protective of the game. They take pride in the way they go about their craft and resist any attempts to change it. It often takes a great deal of persuading for them to collectively change their ways. Many coaches are steeped in the traditions of the game and, for better or worse, look more highly on players who are willing to play through injury. Problems can arise if a coach creates an atmosphere that doesn’t appreciate the dangers associated with concussions. In these situations, players may be encouraged to play after “getting their bell rung”.

Hockey parents are another variable in this equation. Parents undeniably want what is best for their child but sometimes their views can lead to harm. Take the recent decision by Hockey Canada to change the age for body checking from peewee to bantam. Opinions on this were decidedly split. Many parents felt that this would make their children “softer”. Perhaps the most popular argument, and one that took a shot at reason, was that delaying the age before players start body checking will lead to more concussions when they are older. They argued that players would not learn how to take a hit when they are young, and therefore, would be more susceptible to concussions later. Even though physicians have tried to explain that the evidence shows no corresponding increase in concussions amongst older players (when hitting is delayed), they still face fierce opposition from the hockey purists, who label them as outsiders meddling with the game.

As medical professionals, we have a responsibility to continue fighting this public health battle. The question is, “How do we do it and win?” I believe that outreach to players, parents, and coaches holds the key to changing the views of the hockey world. It is not enough to simply collect data and present it at annual meetings. High profile injuries to celebrities such as Sidney Crosby have garnered a great deal of attention, but we cannot trust the media to educate the masses. We need to get into dressing rooms and explain to players why concussions must be taken seriously. We need to have open conversations with parents and coaches about making it ok for players to say they might be concussed. Just like a patient-centered interview, we have to be there to respond to concerns and explain the evidence for what we are suggesting. Not everyone will be open to what we have to say, but if we can help prevent even one player from suffering the same fate as I did, our efforts will be worth it.

For the original blog post check out CMAJ BLOGS: http://cmajblogs.com/concussion-the-invisible-injury/