Revelstoke minor hockey players take baseline concussion tests

Revelstoke Minor Hockey hopes having players take baseline concussion tests will make sport safer for kids.

Cory Cameron explains the concussion testing program to a group of minor hockey players.

Revelstoke Minor Hockey had all their players take baseline tests in order to help recovery if they ever experience a concussion during the course of play.

Cory Cameron, a Revelstoke native who is now the athletic therapist for the Kootenay Ice of the WHL, approached minor hockey about conducting the tests, and the association jumped on board.

“I thought it was something very valuable for minor hockey,” said Kevin Grimm, the president of the Revelstoke Minor Hockey Association. “Obviously we’re concerned about our players health off the ice and on the ice. Most important, a lot of people don’t know when you have a concussion and when you’re better to play. That’s something I’m always concerned with. When he explained what he could do, I was intrigued by that.”

Cameron was in Revelstoke on Friday, when he conducted the tests on the minor hockey players of all ages. He was being helped by Fraser Sprigings of Helios Physiotherapy.

The players were being tested for things like balance and memory to see where they stood mentally at the start of the season. That way, if they do experience a concussion, they can be tested later to see how their results compare.

“We test them on baseline to make sure they’re healthy now,” said Cameron. “If they get injured during the season, they come back to do a follow-up exam. We’ll compare that to their baseline data to see how severe their injury is, how off their balance is, how bad their memory may be, and we’ll use those tools moving forward in their recovery to make sure they don’t return to play too quickly.”

During one part of the testing, two of seven kids said they had a concussion in the past. Cameron said he expects at least 10 per cent of kids across minor hockey to have had one at some point. The higher prevalence is the result of increased awareness.

The test the kids were taking consisted of three parts. One was called SCAT 3 — Sports Concussion Assessment Tool. It’s a test used by the NHL, NFL, NBA, International Olympic Committee and other elite-level sports organizations. The second was a balance test developed by Sway Medical that uses an iPad app to measure balance and reaction time. The third part was an online neurocognitive test.

“I really feel kids at this level need to be tested when they’re young, because if they had concussions that are mis-managed when they’re young, that’s going to affect them when they get older,” said Cameron.

The Revelstoke Grizzlies players also do baseline concussion testing through Helios. Sprigings said the test helps see how well a player is recovering.

Helios will let anyone take the SCAT 3 portion of the test for free so they can have their own baseline. “We do it to promote awareness of concussions,” said Sprigings.

Cameron said the test the minor hockey players took was more advanced than just the SCAT 3.

Kevin Grimm saw the problem first hand when his son Peter was concussed in his first year of Bantam. “I saw what he went through and how debilitating it was and how long it took for him to come back,” he said. “We worked with Fraser at Helios and did all the return-to-play protocol properly, but without having a baseline test done, we never really knew where he should be.”

For Grimm, he hopes the testing will show to parents that minor hockey is taking steps to make the game as safe as possible in order to increase enrolment in the sport. “This program shows we’re concerned, and although hockey is intrinsically dangerous, we can take steps to make it as safe as possible for the kids,” he said.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to clarify the type of testing minor hockey players were undertaking. They took a three part test, including SCAT 3, a Sway Medical balance assessment test and an online neurocognitive test. The baseline concussion testing offered by Helios and done by the Grizzlies consists of the SCAT 3.

 

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