Several of Canada's high-speed luge athletes are encouraging the Canadian public to reduce the risks of brain injuries with a series of videos while sporting their newly specially-designed helmets on the World Cup circuit. The Put a Lid on It series dovetails with Helmets for Heroes, a campaign started two years ago by skier Brad Spence and luger Sam Edney to increase awareness about traumatic brain injuries.
"Concussions are likely the most talked about issue in elite sport these days, but brain injuries extend far beyond high-performance athletes," said Alex Gough, three-time Olympic luge athlete. "Each year more than 6,000 Canadians become permanently disabled after experiencing a traumatic brain injury and more than one million Canadians are living with an acquired brain injury.
Gough and her six Canadian teammates have teamed up with Helmets for Heroes and the Joe Media Group to produce of series of videos that will roll out throughout the remainder of their World Cup season, with the goal of reducing the risks of brain injuries when playing.
"As luge athletes, we understand the inherent risks associated with our sport, and the need to wear a helmet, train properly, and make smart choices in order to minimize those risks, "Gough added. 'We believe as Olympians we have a voice to educate Canadians on this important issue, and ultimately help put a lid on brain injuries in everyday life by encouraging people to wear a helmet and make smart choices."
Luge Canada officially celebrated the New Year by launching the new video series Wednesday.
"Each year more than 5,000 children in Canada are seriously injured by a concussion. Helmets are not the complete answer, but they are certainly the first positive action we can take to help reduce the risks of serious injuries in recreational activities," said Olympian John Fennell.
The seven members of the Canadian luge team teamed up with seven children suffering brain injuries and local artists to design and paint the helmets they are wearing throughout the World Cup season as part of their brain injury prevention awareness campaign. The team first donned their new lids during the Luge World Cup in Calgary prior to the holiday break.
From John Fennell's flying reptiles to Alex Gough's sugar skull on the front that runs back into an MRI of a brain and a maple leaf to Arianne Jones' inspirational word art, to Mitch Malyk's Canadian northern light space art, to Tristan Walker's red and black maple leafs to Justin Snith's winter motif, and Kim McRae's colourful sunset and horses, each helmet delivers a powerful message and story unique to the athlete and child.
Auction off helmets
After the 2015-16 World Cup season, Luge Canada will host a corporate learn-to-luge event at Winsport's Canada Olympic Park at the end of February where they will auction off the helmets. All of the funds raised will be split between the Helmets for Heroes Foundation, and to programs that assist children suffering from brain injuries.
"Luge Canada and its national athletes should be commended for their leadership in partnering with Helmets for Heroes and the community to increase public awareness about traumatic brain injury and the importance of reducing risk through smart choices," said Dr. Brian Benson, CMO and Director of Sport Medicine for the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary. "Use of a properly fitted and certified helmet for sport and recreational activities such as skiing, snowboarding and cycling, can significantly reduce one's risk of brain injury and the potential life-altering effects associated with this injury."
Helmets for Heroes was conceived two years ago by Olympic alpine skier Brad Spence when he met Calgary Osteosarcoma patient Gillian O'Blenes-Kaufman during a community outreach visit to the Alberta Children's Hospital. Recognizing her incredible artistic talent, Spence asked O'Blenes-Kaufman to design and paint the helmet he wore to compete at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games.
O'Blenes-Kaufman lost her battle with cancer one year ago – the same week Spence launched his program with three-time Olympic luge athlete Sam Edney. Wearing his specially designed helmet by Richard Flamenco at the World Cup in Calgary, Edney slid into the history books as the first Canadian male ever to win a World Cup race. The emotional race took place the same day as Gillian O'Blenes-Kaufman's funeral.
"I am really proud and honoured to bring these three amazing individuals together in a celebration of sport and art, but more importantly, to provide people with the opportunity to stand up and do what we can to put a lid on this serious issue in 2916. If this campaign can encourage even one child to make smarter choices and prevent them from suffering a brain injury, then we have achieved success," added Brad Spence.