Wearing appropriate helmets is the best way to prevent head injuries in sport, but when head injuries do happen it's essential that they're diagnosed and treated before the athlete gets back into the game.
Unfortunately, said helmet advocate Richard Kinar, they're not easy to diagnose and some athletes return too soon and risk a greater injury.
A long-time advocate for helmet use, and national helmet standards for every sport, Kinar is now advocating that Whistler launch a pilot project where all children in town would receive baseline testing, which will make it easier to diagnose concussions, determine their severity, and ensure that the head injury is treated and healed.
"It's the same situation we saw with (NHL star) Sidney Crosby," said Kinar. "His head injury was completely mishandled and he was put into the game too quickly. And now he's suffering because of poor decisions made by his caregivers.
"The real risk is a repetitive head injury, because it can lead to learning and behavioural problems if you receive another concussion. Crosby received a repetitive head injury in a short period of time, and it could affect his hockey career and the rest of his life."
Kinar was approached by Steve Legge on behalf of the Whistler Minor Hockey Association about bringing baseline testing to local hockey teams. He agreed to take on the issue, providing that it applied to all Whistler kids and not just those enrolled in hockey.
Kinar is now looking to speak to other teams and community stakeholders about the issue to gauge the level of interest. He sees Whistler - his new home after moving from North Vancouver - as an ideal pilot site for the rest of Canada.
"I've spoken to the Brain Injury Association and they agree that Whistler is the right place for this," said Kinar. "This is truly an outdoor community where almost everybody is involved in some type of high risk sport, or several high risk sports. After hosting the Olympics here, all of Canada contributed to build these legacies... but at the end of the day a true legacy that Whistler can give back to the rest of Canada is safe sport. What the FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) asked for years ago is a strategy for youth prevention in sport, and I really believe Whistler will be steering that."
Kinar is currently talking to the mayor and councillors to get their support, as well as seeking input from other stakeholders in the community. Whatever system Whistler comes up with to test and monitor children - as well as the funding model - could be implemented in other communities across B.C. and Canada as part of a national injury prevention strategy.
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