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Federal government pledges $5-million for sports injury prevention Add to ...

As the argument over dealing with head injuries roils on in the pro sports ranks, the federal government is funding a plan to stem injuries suffered by Canadian youth and amateur athletes.

Sports Minister Gary Lunn announced Ottawa will spend $5-million over the next two years to promote prevention measures aimed at reducing injuries - including concussions - that cost the country's health system billions of dollars each year.

"Many of these injuries are predictable and preventable," Mr. Lunn said.

The money will be distributed to several sports and advocacy groups, including Hockey Canada and ThinkFirst, the foundation started by noted concussion expert Charles Tator, in a bid to raise awareness about injury risks on rinks, ski slopes and bicycle paths.

Rebecca Nesdale-Tucker, ThinkFirst's executive director, called the federal plan "an excellent first step towards a comprehensive pan-Canadian strategy."

The initiative follows Ottawa's recent public vows to address the issue of sports injuries, and head injuries in particular.

But it pales when set side by side with a proposal tabled Wednesday by Rhode Island's state legislature to make it a legal requirement for all student athletes to undergo baseline cognitive testing each year. The state also wants to expand requirements that coaches and team volunteers take yearly refresher courses on recognizing and dealing with head injuries.

Although Mr. Lunn said the federal plan has been in the works for over a year, it's no coincidence the news conference to announce it was held at a rink in a downtown office complex. A group of teenagers circled the ice in the background - few, if any, wore helmets.

Montreal has been consumed for more than a week by the controversy surrounding Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara's hit on the Montreal Canadiens' Max Pacioretty, which sent the latter to hospital with a cervical fracture and a severe concussion.

Mr. Chara wasn't suspended in the incident. Mr. Pacioretty is out indefinitely.

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