Concussion Awareness

I am a personal injury lawyer. For over twenty years, I have helped people with serious injuries navigate insurance, treatment and the legal system as they recover and adapt to changed circumstances. For many years I have also been a minor hockey trainer. In that role, I help young hockey players to avoid serious injuries but when necessary, to provide first aid, assess risks and get them into the hands of medical professionals who can treat them and help them to recover. In one job I wear a suit and carry a briefcase. In the other, I wear a warm hockey jacket and carry a first aid kit and water bottles. In both, I want to see my client or player get the best recovery possible so they can get back to their game.

One of our big concerns in minor hockey is the prevention, identification and management of concussions. We do all we can to make the game safe, but sometimes things go wrong. In my law practice, I frequently see people suffering from concussions too, often sustained in car collisions. Sometimes, because of other more obvious injuries like broken bones, concussions are overlooked or minimized. Too often, long after the fractures have healed, the concussion symptoms can still make day to day life a challenge.

When one of my players shows any symptoms of a concussion (headache, dizziness, sensitivity to light, nausea, confusion and others), I insist that they see a doctor as soon as possible. A concussion is a brain injury and we know that the severity of a concussion is not always consistent with the severity of a hit. If the doctor diagnosis a concussion, we follow a return to play protocol that starts with getting clearance from the doctor after a period of physical and mental rest. The player can try returning to light daily activities. If that goes well without symptoms, they can try some light aerobic exercise like walking. Again, if all goes well, they can try some skating and then some drills at practice (without body contact). At that point, if symptoms are absent and the doctor says it’s ok, we can progress to body contact drills and game play.

Day to day living isn’t necessarily easier than sport. The speed may be reduced and there is rarely body checking at work but I have always thought that the concussion protocol that we use in the hockey world makes a lot of sense of anyone who has experienced a concussion, not just young athletes. There are resources available to assist you in recovering from a concussion. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can help you to identify those resources and help you secure the funding to pay for them to make sure your “return to the game” is as smooth and successful as possible.

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