Concussion crusade 1 New guides put spotlight on growing problem

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TORONTO – Sidney Crosby and Chris Pronger.

Justin Morneau and Jason Bay.

And Aidan Fife of Waterloo.

Concussions aren’t restricted to one sport, one level of stardom or one age group.

While Crosby and Pronger are NHLers, Morneau and Bay earn their living as major league hitters, Fife, now 13, was skating on left wing for the Waterloo Wolves in a minor peewee tournament in Hamilton in 2010.

“I was hit from behind and another player jumped into me with both gloves in my face,” Fife, who didn’t remember falling on his way to the bench, said.

No penalty was called.

“I was tipsy and taken to the dressing room.”

Fife had suffered a concussion … an injury each and everyone of us is learning more and more about.

Fife was at the Hockey Hall of Fame along with former National Hockey Leaguers Wayne and Keith Primeau Thursday morn as two concussion guides were released … one for parents, one for children.

Dr. Stan Kutcher of Dalhousie University wrote the guidelines to fight/educate about/combat concussions on a multi-pronged platform.

The passionate Kerry Goulet and the Primeau brothers of were on hand, along with Aidan’s mother, Catherine Fife, president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, and Dr. Ian Dawe, of the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, which put the group together through its You’re Not Alone program.

Concussions are projected to affect 240,000 in Canada by the year 2036, with the greatest increases predicted to be in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

Goulet explained concussions are not strictly an NHL, NFL, MLB or boxing problem but one of society, from the skier on the bunny hill at Mont Tremblant to the youth soccer player in Germany … to Aidan.

As the saying goes, we don’t know what we don’t know.

And few parents, coaches or educators know all the facts about concussions.

“We woke Aidan up every two hours, asked if he was OK and he went to school the next day,” said the mother of her brave son. “We should have erred on the side of caution. We didn’t have testing done.”

Aidan couldn’t balance on one foot, couldn’t do his ABCs backward.

Someone came to Fife and said, ‘So, your son got his bell rung?’ The mother answered, ‘No, he injured his brain.’

Once you have a concussion you are more susceptible to another. So there was Aidan running up the hill at MacGregor School and when he hit the wet pavement … he slipped and down he went. A cut over his right eye. Concussion No. 2. This time his parents were better prepared. This time he “rested” his brain before heading back to school.

What would Aidan tell someone his age who thinks they may have suffered a concussion.

“If you have a headache or think you had one, tell someone, let them decide if you can play again,” Aidan said.

That’s not always easy in the bullet-proof mind set of sports, especially in a one-goal, one-run or one-point game. The natural instinct is to get back in there. Take a deep breath and suck it up.

The guides hope to educate: Understanding Brain Injury in Adolescence ( is designed for a parents, coaches and educators and The Brain Injury Guide for Youth ( for the younger set.

Goulet and Fife explained the four-part process:

1) Prevention: “No matter how much money you spend on a helmet, it will not prevent a brain from hitting the skull,” said Fife. And mouth guards, even fitted mouth guards, don’t prevent concussions.

2) Assessment: Get medical attention — either an MRI or a CAT scan. Concussion-like symptoms range from headaches, to vertigo, to loss of balance, memory loss, a change in personality or nausea.

3) Management: Rest the brain. Cut down on screen media (TV, laptops, Blackberries or anything else.) Ease back into the school day. First two hours, then three, etc.

4) Research: The guides say 15% of head injuries are serious, the rest can be managed with proper care.

“Recently a boy suffered a concussion, went to hospital and his parents were told by an intern their son had a Grade 3 concussion and to wake him every two hours,” Goulet said. “Waking someone every two hours is an old wives’ tale. Doctors have not graded concussions for eight years.

“Like Crosby says, ‘I don’t want to be 90%, there is no such thing as 90% returning from a concussion,’” Goulet said. “He wants to be 100%. There are too many young Canadians walking around in the dark.”

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