Back at Hockey Canada's kickoff event in Toronto at the start of September, Chief Executive Officer Bob Nicholson assured journalists and dignitaries present that the organization was doing everything it could to promote concussion awareness.
This included launching a mobile application, made free today on Android, Blackberry and iOS (links available via the press release). The message hasn't particularly changed as hockey organizations work with equipment providers to make better fitted equipment more accessible to the general public. From Hockey Canada's vantage, their major focus is on fundamentals and education from the get-go and getting kids and parents to recognize the dangers and symptoms early on.
Nicholson from September:
"We're having good discussions on body checking. I go back to the key on this and we've been working on this for a number of years. Checking should be introduced as soon as they start, in that the first steps of checking are skating backwards, turning, containment, body contact. The issue becomes when do you go from contact to checking."
Hockey Canada's "Heads Up" application, aimed at children (screenshot above), follows through with a very similar message in a Q & A section with 'Puckster', a concussion-aware bear mascot.
4. What skills are most important to learn to stop concussions?
You should follow the on-ice tips we just talked about, especially learning basic hockey skills. Balnace and agility, stopping and starting, forward and backward skating skills, controlling the puck with your head up and shooting are all important in reducing injuries.
Both apps stress that a helmet alone cannot prevent concussions. The focus on fundamentals is important for Hockey Canada since the technology doesn't exist at this point to allow hockey players of all ages to be 100 per cent safe over the course of a game. Emphasizing skills that will minimize a concussion risk is essentially what both apps aim to do. The parent-focused app, "Head Smart", features a list of common symptoms and signs, as well as an "initial response" plan in event a player loses consciousness.
And like a good bowl of breakfast cereal, it even comes with Sidney Crosby's endorsement:
"I feel very fortunate that hockey has been part of my life since I was very young and admire Hockey Canada's commitment to educating families and players about all aspects of the game," said Crosby. "It is important to always give your best effort and yet always be respectful of everyone on the ice. Be smart, stay safe and have fun." [Hockey Canada]
Crosby is, of course, Canada's generational hockey celebrity who played just 29 hockey games after a dangerous collision with David Steckel, then of the Washington Capitals during the 2011 Winter Classic. Despite Crosby being less than worse for wear skating off the ice at the period break, he had nine shifts in the third period and stayed in the lineup for the Penguins' next game against Tampa Bay when he got crunched again by Victor Hedman. The second hit ended Crosby's season.
The focus for kids is to learn that playing with a concussion is harmful and teaches ways to minimize risk. The focus for adults is "in event of", although the app does state that it's an information resource only and should "not to be used or relied upon for any diagnostic or treatment purposes". Thankfully, there's a "Find Hospital" widget that comes with the app.