Ottawa hockey parents learn about concussions

Hundreds of Ottawa parents, kids and coaches receive a crash course on concussions in youth hockey from a panel of experts.
Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson missed five games with a concussion this season - an example of the injuries that have led more parents to learn about how to best protect their hockey-playing children. (Shaun Best/Reuters)

Hundreds of Ottawa parents, kids and coaches at Scotiabank Place received a crash course on concussions in youth hockey Saturday — a conversation health experts say has been brought to the fore by the NHL's high-profile injuries. 

Dr. Jaime Kissick, a sports medicine physician in the city, says people are now taking concussions more seriously because of the major concussion suffered by Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby. 

"People realize now that, 'Hey, Sidney's out for a year, this is important, I need to do something about this,' " he said. "So as awful it's been for Sidney Crosby, the good that comes out of this is it becomes a real boon for those of us trying to preach concussion education."

Five experts led the concussion seminar, which was held while the Ottawa Senators held an open practice. Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson missed five games this year because of a concussion.

Respect the game

Dr. Michael Vassilyadi, a pediatric neurosurgeon, said 10 year ago a seminar like Saturday's wouldn't have happened.

"Since these major NHL athletes like Sidney Crosby and recently Daniel Alfredsson took time off because of their concussion, I think that's really shown everybody else, especially children, that they're really taking it more seriously," he said.

The discussion included possible solutions in hockey and what parents can do.

Kissick says parents and coaches should be watching out for key warning signs, including headaches, balance problems, trouble focusing and sudden depression or anxiety.

He also warned it's a common misconception is that a player need to be knocked out in order to have a concussion. Any player showing any of the symptoms should be pulled off the ice immediately, he said.

Both doctors agreed awareness and education are important in preventing concussions, but Vassilyadi said the most important message for parents and kids is respect for the game.

"It's important that the kids have fun, that they go out there, that they enjoy the game, but at the same time play it well and play it safe."