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Medical And Hockey Communities Join Together To Address The Issue Of Concussions

10/20/2010, 9:15am MDT
By Harry Thomspon

If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, the hockey world is hoping that a few days spent discussing the causes and effects of concussions will go a long way toward making a safer and better game.

The issue of concussions in sports has taken center stage in recent months, particularly in the professional leagues such as the NHL and NFL, where hits to the head are happening at an alarming rate. The end results are million-dollar athletes sidelined with head trauma. But the problem is just as likely to be found at the youth level, and in all sports, as youth athletes of all ages are also dealing with the effects of a concussion.

To address these issues, Dr. Michael Stuart, USA Hockey’s chief medical officer, teamed up with his colleague at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Aynsley Smith, to create the first summit dealing specifically with concussions in ice hockey.

The two-day summit brought together experts from both the medical and hockey communities to address the reasons for the rise in the number of reported concussions and ultimately to create an action plan to help stem the rising time of concussions at all levels of the game, from youth hockey to the professional ranks.

For Stuart, who has served as the team physician for numerous U.S. National Teams, including the silver-medal winning 2010 U.S. Olympic Team, the summit is part of an on-going effort to get a handle on an issue that affects youth hockey programs around the country.

“This summit is unique in that we brought together a very diverse group of people who have a passion for the game of hockey but probably as important a passion for safety,” Stuart said.

“We hope at the very end that we not only had open debate and discussion and shared information but we’re actually going to have a prioritized action item plan to make hockey safer.”

The summit was divided into nine segments in which some of the leading experts in the field of concussions spoke on various topics, including a science of brain trauma, the role that equipment plays in reducing the risk of concussions, evaluating concussed athletes and the importance of following strict return-to-play guidelines.

“When in doubt, sit them out,” was the unanimous battle cry from all the speakers, including Dr. Mark Lovell, who has spent 25 years working with concussed athletes in Pittsburgh.

“A player who suffers a concussion and returns to action puts himself at a greater risk of suffering greater injury if they suffer a second concussion,” Lovell said.

The issue of how equipment can play a role in restricting concussions featured a panel of equipment company representatives, including Cascade, Bauer and Easton, who said that the continued improvement of helmets is a team effort involving a number of different parties involved in the game, including the medical community.

“What we’re trying to do here at the summit is address every piece of the puzzle, and that goes for education, rule changes and enforcement of existing rules, equipment and rink modifications, behavioral modifications, diagnosis and evaluation and management of concussions,” Stuart said.

“All of these pieces of the puzzle are important and if we don’t address each and every one of those I think we’re missing a great opportunity.”

To capitalize on this opportunity, the summit ended with a series of breakout sessions in which an action plan was created to address the issue of reducing the risk of concussions in hockey at all levels of the game.

“Now that the summit is over, the real work begins,” Stuart said. “We need to take this message to all the groups within hockey because each of us is a stakeholder in the safety of our game.”

Among the highlights of the summit:

Robert Cantu, an expert in the field of brain trauma at Boston University – “I am happy to say that we will never return to the day when a child is knocked out of a game and is brought back in and is cheered for his toughness.”

Paul Comper, who has studied concussions at the NHL level by watching thousands of video clips over the past five seasons – “Shoulder hits to the head cause 60 percent of all reported concussions in the NHL.”

Dr. Richard Greenwell, a leading concussion researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – “It is estimated that while the number of concussions have risen in recent years, 50 percent of concussions still go unreported.”

Kevin Guskiewicz, a professor at the University of North Carolina who studies concussions in sports, particularly football – “We found that 50 percent of high school football players don’t report concussions because they don’t think the injury was that serious, they don’t want to be removed from the game and they don’t want to let their team or coach down.”

Rob LaPrade, a physician at The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. – “The physical exam is a lot harder because no two kids are the same and there is a lot of pressure from parents and coaches to get kids back into action.”

Jim Johnson, a 14-year NHL veteran who suffered from post-concussion syndrome – “I remember coaching a Bantam team in Arizona and having a parent accuse me of wrecking his son’s hockey career because I was going to sit him out because he had symptoms of concussions.”

Mark Lovell, founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program – “Athletes often deny symptoms so you can’t believe them because they will say whatever they think you want to hear to get back on the ice.”

William Montelpare, founder of the Play It Cool sportsmanship program in Canada – “Concussions in hockey are the elephant in the room, so it’s great that the hockey world has come together to address this important topic.”

Kerry Fraser, former NHL referee – “Success or failure in reducing hits to the head relies on the enforcement of the rules at the ice level, and that responsibility falls on the officials. But, if you don’t educate the officials and let them know what you want, the program will fail, just like the obstruction policy. Instruction has to be firm, it has to be clear and it has to be concise.”

Pat Bishop, professor emeritus of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo – “Is there anyone in this room who could not demand in a loud and clear voice an immediate and total ban on head checking.”

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09/26/2016, 10:45am MDT
By Kelly Erickson

Three USA Hockey officials earn the chance to officiate in the NHL for the first time this season

For the majority of young hockey players, their dream is to skate in the National Hockey League. They want to be the next Zach Parise, Patrick Kane, Ryan Suter — the list goes on. This season, starting in NHL training camps, three young Americans will make their dream a reality, with one caveat — instead of playing, they’ll be officiating.

Ryan Daisy, Furman South and Cameron Voss, three USA Hockey officials, were each recently offered NHL contracts and will attend their first NHL training camps this fall.

“It’s been a dream come true, really,” South said. “I’ve dreamt of being in the NHL my whole life. I grew up playing hockey from a young age and have been a hockey fan my whole life. Ever since I learned to skate it was always a dream of mine to be in the NHL. For most of my life I have dreamt of being there as a player, but once I was done playing, my dream was to make it as an official. And I made it. I can’t wait to have my first NHL game.”

Daisy echoed the sentiment, noting that making it to the NHL level as an official has been a goal of his for awhile.

“It feels awesome,” Daisy said. “I’m sure there will be a lot of emotions going on in my first game, the first time I touch the ice in the NHL with the NHL crest on my sweater that I’ve been dreaming about for years. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

It’s a dream made reality for all three, and the ultimate payoff for many years of hard work and sacrifice.

“It’s an accumulation of all the sacrifices my family has made for me, all the supervisors and friends along the way that have helped me,” Voss said. “It wasn’t just me, it was a collection of people that pushed me and made me believe and work hard. It’s a pretty overwhelming feeling being at this point. I’m just glad all the sacrifices that we’ve made have paid off. I’m very blessed and humbled by the whole experience.”

Voss, South and Daisy were drawn to officiating from different paths, but once on it, they both climbed through the ranks and took advantage of the USA Hockey officiating development initiatives, including summer camps and the USA Hockey Officiating Program for South and Daisy to hone their skills.

Voss was the first of the three to don the zebra stripes, becoming an official at age 12, working alongside his father. It was his way to help pay for his hockey gear and get extra ice time. After closing his collegiate career at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, pursuing a career as a ref became a reality. He attended an officiating summer camp and saw all the opportunities available to work in higher-level hockey, and before long, he was working his way through them, spending time at the youth, high school, junior, NCAA Division I and professional levels in the American League.

“My eyes lit up really wide and I was just eager to start the process,” Voss said.

“USA Hockey gave me lots of opportunities to learn and hone my craft. The people involved in USA Hockey, they sacrificed a lot of time … they helped me out tremendously, especially at the grassroots level. They let me learn and grow and even let me fail and learn from those experiences. USA Hockey helped me from when I first started when I was 12 to when I got the call (from the NHL) in July.”

South played NCAA hockey at Robert Morris University. When he graduated in 2012 at age 24, he simply wanted to find a way to stay involved in the sport about which he was so passionate. He tried coaching, he instructed at camps and then he got a chance to ref a game and he loved it. He’s officiated everywhere from high school up, spending last season in the American Hockey League.

“It kind of came naturally to me and I realized it was something I wanted to pursue,” South said. “A couple of years later, it seems to have worked out.”

Daisy was drawn to officiating because it was a way to be in the game, to skate on the ice. His dream of becoming an official firmly solidified when he joined the USA Hockey Officiating Development Program during his senior year of college. With some early success, he was offered a contract to work in the United States Hockey League full-time, fueling his aspirations.

“(USA Hockey) will do everything in their power to help you achieve your dreams, no matter what level of hockey it is,” Daisy said.

From his Level 1 seminar to summer camps to his job in the USHL, Daisy has felt extreme support from every manager and mentor along the way, noting they all wanted to help him be a better official.

“You’re learning from the best,” Daisy said. “You’re learning from guys that are either currently in the NHL, have been in the NHL, officials that have worked international hockey and college hockey. They’re out there helping you become better.”

South also credits the USA Hockey Officiating Development Program as a factor in his success, noting Scott Zelkin, the Officiating Development Program manager, and the program itself gave him every opportunity to succeed as an official. To make his dreams come true.

“I can’t say enough about USA Hockey and the Officiating Development Program,” South said. “I wouldn’t have had this chance with the NHL if it wasn’t for those guys, that’s for sure.”

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