The symptoms slow me down at times, but I don’t let them keep me from getting on with life, with my daily activities. On the days when I’m not feeling well, I have to work harder to get through those.
For me, the glass is always half full instead of half empty. It’s also easier for me to get on a plane and fly somewhere now. The pressure, the pain, seems to have resolved itself.
As I learned more about concussions, I realized that no two are alike, not even for the same person. People respond very differently to all the available treatments. I’ve done Eastern, Western and modern medicine…I’ve tried a lot of different things.
The most important thing to remember is the human element, even more so with kids. We all get caught up in the emotion of the game and can forget that a brain is far too important to put a game-related value on—that value being wins or losses for a team, a player, or a coach’s ego. It’s more important that the individual be safe and healthy, and that means being removed from play when an injury occurs instead of staying in for the sake of a win.
In most kids’ hockey (minor/house league) there are no doctors, trainers, therapists, or medical staff on site. The onus falls on parents, coaches, and kids to speak up and say some- thing’s not right. It’s tough for everybody to admit, but it needs to be done because we still don’t fully understand the danger of concussions and head trauma. We’re always learning more.
I like to say, “Real courage is having the ability to speak up.” For the longest time in hockey, the mentality has been about persevering, about being there for your teammates. But one way to accomplish that goal is by using your voice to speak up and say you don’t feel well. It makes it easier and more acceptable for everyone in the long run.
Keith Primeau crashes the net during the Eastern Conference finals (May 22, 2004).
This is something I’ve dealt with as a parent. Three of my four children—sons Corey and Chayse and my only daughter, Kylie—have had at least one documented concussion, all of them sports-related. The boys got theirs playing hockey, and my girl suffered hers in field lacrosse, and all around the same age, 13 to 14.
My younger son, Chayse, doesn’t even remember being helped off the ice. We followed the protocols—kept him off the ice and out of school for a few days. He was bored and bouncing off the walls, looking for something to do, so my wife and I talked it over and sent him back to school and put him back on the ice, believing he was okay. Luckily he had baseline testing before his injury. When we had him retested after he returned to classes and hockey, we were surprised to see he hadn’t fully recovered.
The most important thing about this experience is that it underscores how crucial it is for kids to have baseline testing done—cognitive and physical—because the tests give doctors and therapists a starting point. Without them, we would have never known what Chayse’s pre-injury levels were. It scares me to think we could have kept him in school after initially sending him back too early, or put him in harm’s way on the ice. No parent wants to do that. Luckily we had that baseline to tell us he needed more recovery time.
People often wonder how my own concussion history affects what I let my kids do. After her concussion, my daughter Kylie asked if my susceptibility made her and her brothers more genetically predisposed to concussions. At the time I laughed it off as just another teenager finding one more thing to blame on her parents. As more evidence comes in, however, there appears to be some merit in her question.
I tell my kids to enjoy life. Sure, they could stop athletics and competitive sports, but how much fun would that be? People get extreme enjoyment out of playing sports and being around friends. Even if they choose not to take part in sporting events, there’s no guarantee they wouldn’t get injured elsewhere in life. If injuries happen, manage them properly; get yourself back into good health, and, most importantly, move forward. A boat is safe in harbor, but that’s not where it’s meant to stay. You can rot in dry dock or set sail with life jackets and lifeboats, calling in for help when you need it.
That’s the attitude I bring when coaching my sons’ hockey teams. This coming season I’ll be working with only my youngest boy’s team, but my brother Wayne and I also run Durham Hockey Institute, a hockey school in Oshawa, Ontario.
Of course, kids need to be safe, and parents hold primary responsibility for keeping them so. There are many tools available to help, but informed parents are a child’s best protection.
No matter what equipment or safety gear kids use, every- one involved should be clothed in respect. Respect for the game, respect for opponents, respect for the rules, respect for body and brain. That alone goes a long way to curb injuries.
Story is taken from Concussed written by Keith Primeau & Kerry Goulet