Concussion plagues Smoke Eater

The Trail Smoke Eaters are heading out on a three-game road swing to Vernon, Merritt and Chilliwack this weekend.

The Trail Smoke Eaters are heading out on a three-game road swing to Vernon, Merritt and Chilliwack this weekend but at least one Smokie won’t be making the trip.

Trail forward Adam Fares suffered a concussion in a game against the Vernon Vipers on Nov. 4, when Fares took a bone-jarring hit from Castlegar native Ryan Renz; he hasn’t played a game since.

“He’s out until at least January,” said Smokies trainer Steve Mears. “He got a CT- scan the other day, and they said at least a minimum of a month before he can start even trying to get back in the process.”

The Smoke Eaters trainer followed league protocol, keeping the 18-year-old completely inactive for a week. Mears then tested Fares with minimal exertion, riding the bike and running stairs, but after a brief on-ice workout the headaches returned. Mears then restarted the process but the headaches persisted.

“It’s a long process you’ve got to start slow and, as soon as you hit the hurdle, you have to go right back to square one and start over.”

With recent deaths to NHL enforcers and almost a year of missed ice-time for Pittsburgh Penguins’ star, Sidney Crosby, all leagues and teams are taking a much more serious approach to concussions.

“There is a lot more information,” says Mears. “The protocols before, if a guy came in and started shaking his head, you’d tell him to suck it up and get back out there. Now the minute I think a guy has had his bell rung, I will tell the coach he’s not playing anymore and I’ve never once had a problem with the coach, even in the playoffs.”

Often players either knowingly or unwittingly hide the effects of concussion because they want to play and Mears has to be on the lookout for signs of head injury.

In a recent instance, the team had to send a promising young goalie home from training camp because of persistent headaches, the result of a concussion suffered months earlier.

Since joining the Smokies in October, Fares had performed well scoring four goals and adding four assists in nine games. He says, since the injury, he doesn’t feel himself, headaches and dizziness come and go, and it is always a concern.

The debilitating effects of head injuries are becoming more and more prevalent and pervasive, affecting athletes in all sports.

Concussions ended the playing career of Fruitvale’s Adam Deadmarsh and curtailed that of Trail’s Kyle St. Denis and reports of brain disease caused by blows to the head emerge daily.

On Monday, 12 former NFL players filed a lawsuit against the league for its concussion policies.

“Before they use to rub the smelling salts under your nose and send you back out there and guys would play concussed and play through the pain, whereas nowadays, we know there could be permanent damage so we don’t take any chances,” said Mears.

To address the growing concern, the BCHL imposed harsher penalties for hits-to-the-head – the problem is, they often aren’t called.

“The rules are in place to do it,” he adds. “I think when they have the two referees out there it’s a lot better because a lot more gets seen, but they’re still missing a lot of hits to the head . . . to me it’s really frustrating because you see it and you see the affect it has on these kids, and the referee says, ‘Well, I didn’t see it.’”

Coincidentally, a sports-concussion library website was launched Thursday as an online resource.

Created by Dr. Paul Echlin, the site is a comprehensive scientific catalogue of over 1,500 concussion studies, and is meant to inform and educate the public.

“I just got tired of seeing these young men and women coming into my office with serious brain injuries, often poorly identified and treated, and misunderstandings with the patient and with the patient’s parents a lot of the time,” Echlin said in an interview with the Canadian Press.

While there are multiple online sites that discuss various aspects of concussion, there was no one website where all the information was pulled together into one package, he added.

“Now there’s no excuse to say you didn’t know because it’s out there, it’s in one place, it’s easily accessible, without cost or commercial value.”

Go to www.dev.sportconcussionlibrary.com for more information.