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Lakehead Leads Research to Educate Coaches, Parents, Players, and Officials on Safe Hockey Behaviours

Helmets and mouth guards are neither the problem nor the
complete solution.  Mayo Clinic showcases research findings.

(October 25, 2010 – Thunder Bay, ON) Findings from the ice hockey skill development and injury awareness program Play It Cool, a Lakehead University research evaluation initiative that began six years ago, were recently showcased at the Mayo Clinic’s two-day Sports Medicine Center Ice Hockey Summit: Action on Concussion conference in Rochester, Minnesota

The primary objective of the Play It Cool safe hockey program is to facilitate the development of knowledge among players, coaches, officials, and parents about safe hockey behaviours in both game and practice situations. 

Concussions are quickly gaining the attention of sports communities as more information is being validated, linking head trauma with negative health conditions such as memory loss, depression, dementia-like symptoms, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (referred to as CTE), effects of which may not appear until the individual has long since retired from their sport.

The Play It Cool research team is led by Dr. Bill Montelpare and includes Dr. Moira McPherson, Dr. Lori Livingston, and Dr. Susan Forbes (Project Manager) from Lakehead University, as well as researchers from York University, the University of Toronto, the University of New Brunswick, and Acadia, Queen’s, and Brock Universities.

Although members of the research team noted the increased attention and growing number of reported concussions among youth leagues, they also indicated the true rate of concussed individuals in any season and at any level is unknown because most individuals do not know when they have been concussed and many refuse to report their injury.  “The incidence of head injury among developmental age hockey players is an extremely serious problem, yet accurately estimating the true incidence rate is only one issue,” says Dr. Montelpare, adding, “It is equally important to provide essential education to coaches, parents, players, and officials about what to look for and how to deal with a suspected concussion.”

Dr. McPherson explains, “Injury reduction is a multifaceted issue, meaning there is no single fix. No brand or model of helmet or mouth guard can be considered concussion proof.  Rather, there is a need to develop an awareness of the risks and behaviours that increase the risk.  Simply put, a reduction in concussion injury can only occur when there is a change in the culture of ice hockey through education.”

Dr. Livingston, whose expertise includes rule enforcement in sport and the consequences of injurious behaviour, expects to see this research lead to the development of education programs that will ultimately create changes in hockey culture throughout the minor and professional levels.  While at the Mayo Conference, Dr. Livingston was part of a working group (which included former NHL official Kerry Fraser) that recommended zero tolerance for contact to the head at all levels of amateur and professional hockey, a complete ban on fighting, and a change in the age at which body checking is allowed in youth hockey.

The Lakehead research team is also leading research on determining more appropriate methods to identify when a concussed player is ready to return to play. Current guidelines indicate that players should be asymptomatic (free of specific symptoms) and cleared by a health professional trained in concussion management before being allowed to return to participate.  According to the Lakehead researchers, “There is a need for more objective tests to support decisions about an individual’s physiological readiness to return to play.” 

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Media: Drs. Montelpare and Forbes are available for media interview today.  For more information, please contact Communications Officer Heather Scott at 807-343-8177 or commun@lakeheadu.ca; or Director of Communications Eleanor Abaya at 807-343-8372 or eabaya@lakeheadu.ca.

About Lakehead
Lakehead is a comprehensive university with a reputation for innovative programs and cutting-edge research. With a main campus located in Thunder Bay, Ontario and a campus in Orillia, Ontario, Lakehead has over 7,700 students and 2,250 faculty and staff, and is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. In 2006, Research Infosource Inc. named Lakehead University Canada's Research University of the Year in the undergraduate category. For more information on Lakehead University, visit www.lakeheadu.ca

Last updated October 25, 2010

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