January 2009

Brain group applauds new hockey rule

The Ontario Alliance for Action on Brain Injury is applauding a new Ontario Hockey League rule that requires players to keep their helmets on with chinstraps fastened during fights. The decision was announced days after a 21-year-old hockey player died after striking his head on the ice during a fight. Hockey players may injure their hands if they thrown a punch while wearing a helmet, Alliance spokesman John Kumpf said in a news release, but that’s no comparison to the damage they could do if they ditch the helmets. “Your shredded knuckles will heal – your brain will not,” Mr. Kumpf said. The OHL announced the new rule on Jan. 14.

The change was in response to the death of a player, Don Sanderson, 21, of the Whitby Dunlops of Major League Hockey. He died after being in a coma for three weeks after hitting his head on the ice during a fight. He was not wearing his helmet when his head struck the ice. The OHL says players who remove their helmets or undo their chinstraps are now subject to a game misconduct and an automatic one-game suspension in addition to any other penalties assessed. "As a young athlete, it's tragic to think you could lose your life playing the sport you love. And even if you survive a serious blow to the head, you'll very likely lose your life in other ways," Mr. Kumpf said in the release. "You can lose the person you used to be: Your memory, your identity, your job, your friends and loved ones – all because of a brain injury.” Brain injuries can cause difficulties with motivation, insight, problem-solving, body temperature control, and hypersensitivity to sound, light and movement.

About the Alliance

The Ontario Alliance for Action on Brain Injury was created in 2008. Its members are the Ontario Brain Injury Association, the Toronto ABI Network, the Provincial Acquired Brain Injury Advisory Committee, the Ontario Association of Community-Based Boards for Acquired Brain Injury Services and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation. The Alliance is campaigning to raise public awareness of acquired brain injury. It is also seeking to partner with government in the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategy to support brain injury survivors and their families in the community.

At the Alliance’s website, visitors can learn more about acquired brain injuries, send an email to their MPP, view a video and subscribe to a blog.

Updated January 19, 2009