Primeau wants to end concussion epidemic

Former NHLer Keith Primeau joined other athletes for the launch of - www.stopconcussions.com -...

Former NHLer Keith Primeau joined other athletes for the launch of - www.stopconcussions.com - devoted to concussions information at the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto on Wednesday May 4, 2011. TORONTO SUN / ERNEST DOROSZUK / QMI AGENCY

Mike Ganter, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:09 AM ET

Keith Primeau doesn’t have a few reasons to jump into this concussion epidemic the world is sports is immersed in.

He has dozens, even hundreds when you really consider it.

There are the four documented concussions he personally suffered that prematurely ended his NHL career. Those alone would suffice but Primeau, the former Detroit Red Wing and Philadelphia Flyer, isn’t doing this for himself.

His concussions have already taken their toll and will continue to do so. He knows that and accepts it. The headaches and vision problems that come and go are a constant reminder.

Another few good reasons are his youngest sons who are 11 and 13 and who he coaches in Philadelphia. He wants them — and the 13 or so other kids on those teams that he feels personally responsible for — to avoid what he has gone through. Primeau doesn’t want any of them or any other kid to suffer what he did and what he continues to suffer due to those concussions.

It is for these reasons and all those others that Primeau has teamed up with Kerry Goulet — a fine hockey player in his own right who has had his own war with concussions and the depression those concussions brought about while playing hockey in Germany — to create stopconcussions.com, an information network for just about everything concussion-related.

They unveiled the program Wednesday at the Hockey Hall of Fame with some help from other former and current sports professionals including former NHLers Mike Van Ryn and Jim Thompson, National women’s team hockey gold medallist Tessa Bonhomme, former Saskatchewan Roughriders and future Chicago Bears receiver Andy Fantuz, and former men’s national team soccer player Jason De Vos.

All were there to help get the word out about stopconcussions.com. It is for the players who sustain concussions, the parents looking for answers about managing them, the coaches and trainers who have to deal with them and even the medical people who treat them.

Eventually, Primeau and Goulet hope to change the mindset in sports that lauds the kind of hit that leaves a guy lying motionless on the ice or on the field. They want to change the thinking that says it’s an act of courage to shake off a hit to the head and “get back in the game.”

It’s a tall order and both men know it, but the alternative — doing nothing and watching more and more young athletes fall victims to the unknowns of a concussion like they both experienced — is just too painful for either man.

Primeau knows what needs to be changed. He’s seen it first-hand while coaching his sons.

“The parent who when their kid gets hit and I have him sitting on the bench, comes and taps on the glass behind me and says ‘Get him back out there,’ ” Primeau says. “And here I am still waiting to assess whether he’s in a position to return to play because it’s not that important to me that he get right back on the ice.”

Goulet, whose second concussion landed him in a depression that without extensive medical rehab could have cost him his life, believes recent events — from the Mikhail Grabovski apparent concussion after which he re-entered the game to score the winning goal in February to the back-to-back concussions suffered by Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby — have brought the issue to a head.

“I believe we’ve reached a tipping point,” Goulet said. “Sidney Crosby (and his decision to sit out the Penguins playoff games) I believe helped tremendously. But I’ve been working on this for five years and really until the Grabovski hit we weren’t taken as seriously. We were shunned a little bit because people thought we wanted to take the physicality out of the sport. Nobody wants that. What we want to do is say, “Listen. You have to play smart. You have one brain and if it’s broken it’s not coming back. All we’re asking people to do is educate themselves and establish the way you are going to play the game and how you can play hard.”

As Goulet said, “There are just far too many kids going to bed tonight with concussions that are undiagnosed.”


Videos

Photos