Roundtable on Concussion in Sports - Report by Kate Crowley
Regina was graced with the presence of NHL hockey legend and author, Ken Dryden, on Friday, April 27, 2012.
Dryden said, "the challenge is not just to raise awareness of the problem, it is beyond that."
Dryden has done an excellent job of bringing the serious issue of concussion in sport to the media's attention. In 2011 he caught the media's attention by writing an article in the Globe and Mail- Ken Dryden's call to action on headshots. Since then, he has written several more articles posing questions about hockey's future.
Dryden joined Jim Hopson- CEO of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and SBIA honourary spokesperson, to begin the Brain Blitz Roundtable discussion at the Regina Inn.
The Roundtable had a diverse panel of players, coaches, and members from the medical community who came together to discuss creative preventative solutions for sports-related injury. Members from smaller communities such as Weyburn and Prince Albert were present at the event as well as those from Regina and Saskatoon. Member of Parliament, Ralph Goodale, was in attendance; and Regina Mayor, Pat Fiacco, participated in the panel discussion.
Those from soccer, boxing and football backgrounds were present in addition to those from the hockey community.
Many insightful points were raised throughout the discussion from the diverse sport experience of those on the panel.
Since Saskatchewan is well known for its 'get-it-done' attitude, Dryden paraphrased what many in the medical community had to say about the issue by stating "the people closest to the concussion survivor will be patient for a week to two weeks. But eventually, they will be like, let's get back into the game already."
Second Impact Syndrome occurs when a second concussion is sustained before an initial injury has healed. It can lead to severe brain injury.
Dryden pointed out that in order for Second Impact Syndrome not to occur, "The trainer needs to know the player well enough to know their personality. If they do, they are more likely to know if there is a personality change due to concussion." That way if the trainer or coach recognizes due to the personality change that the player has sustained a concussion, the player can sit out for the proper amount of time before returning to play.
Ken alluded to the change in societies viewpoint of sports injuries, stating "we used to approach concussions as if they were random, and a result of bad luck."
Kelly McClintock from the Saskatchewan Hockey Association also noted a change in sport culture "very seldom have I actually seen a concussion result from fighting in twenty years. It's because they are fighting with more power and speed."
McClintock also suggested a creative solution to help end brain injuries in sports-particularly hockey. "We should teach kids how to protect themselves from body checks. Just because it's not in the game doesn't mean it doesn't happen."
Although the discussion mainly ended up being centered around hockey, sports such as soccer and football were also thoroughly discussed.
"I think football has a worse problem than hockey does," said Dryden.
Several times throughout the Roundtable parents sitting in the bleachers were identified as contributors to aggressive behavior that often leads to injuries. Parents can pressure and influence coaches by egging them to play their players more aggressively through their language and tone of voice.
Minor football league president, Kelly Hamilton, said a way that the minor football league is actively trying to change the culture of aggression in football is to change the language they use when coaching, such as not using terms like "rip their heads off". It's about teaching kids to respect themselves and their opponents in the game, and that needs to come from the coaches.
Jim Hopson alluded to football's concussion problems by telling the audience how much less protective the headgear when he played football as a youth was. But even though the equipment they used was not as advanced as what we have today, the number of players suffering from concussions then was not greater than there is today.
Although our equipment and technology is more advanced today, we still have a growing problem of sports-related head injuries, Dryden pointed out. The reasons, he suggested, are that players are now bigger, moving faster, and in hockey's case-playing for shorter periods which pressures the player to play harder during their time on ice. He used an example of having three TV screens playing at once-showing one hockey game from the 50s, one from the 80s, and one from now at the same time. "You will notice a big difference," said Dryden, "in the speed at which they play."
Although there were many views presented about issues of concussion and sports-related injury, one thing everyone agreed on was a point Ken Dryden brought up in regards to how the sport culture has changed over the years- "the guys who were the real tough guys [in the past] weren't ramming people into posts."
It was a very productive afternoon, and a great first event for SBIA's Take Brain Injury Out of Play initiative.