More than seven years since his last NHL game, Keith Primeau is still living with the unpleasant reminders that he played a violent sport at the professional level for 15 years.
A victim of four documented concussions, Primeau said he likely suffered many more that went undiagnosed as he was growing up playing the game that he loved.
Primeau believes that new guides developed by leading brain-injury experts would have saved him much of the problem he is still experiencing had they been around years ago.
“Absolutely 100 per cent I believe it would have changed my course, because it [concussions]was never managed,” said Primeau, who still suffers from headaches, vision problems and fatigue.
“I never got the opportunity to heal properly, or heal right.”
Primeau was on hand Thursday at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto where the new guides were released to the public during a joint news conference that was also held in Halifax.
It is hoped that the guides will help to promote a better understanding of the cause and treatment of brain trauma in youth.
“These comprehensive brain-injury guides are a valuable tool to ensure we equally support the mental-health needs of our youth,” said Ian Dawe, chief of staff at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, in Whitby, Ont.
Stan Kutcher, the Sun Life Financial chair in adolescent mental health, led the initiative, which involved the support of 20 organizations including Baseball Canada, stopconcussions.com, Sunnybrook Hospital and Athletes Canada.
Professional sports organizations such as the NHL, Major League Baseball and the NFL are all grappling with how to deal with a spiralling increase in the number of concussions being suffered by their players.
Kerry Goulet, who along with Primeau helped found stopconcussions.com to inform the public, said education is a key component toward affecting change.
“If we wait for the National Hockey League, the National Football League, MLB, NBA to solve it, it’s not going to happen,” said Goulet, a former European hockey player who is still suffering the affects of post-concussion syndrome.
Goulet said it will require a collective effort, from not only sport administrators but educators, the health profession and athletes themselves, to tackle the issue.
Goulet said that despite a huge increase in public awareness surrounding brain trauma, the injury itself is still largely misunderstood.
“The word concussion for an athlete is an easy way to get out of saying, ‘I’m brain injured,’” Goulet said. “If I walk out of this room and say, ‘I’m concussed,’ you look at me and you say I’m a gladiator.
“If I said I was brain injured, there’s a complete other stigma.”
When he was younger and playing the game, Primeau said taking a tough hit to the head was just considered part of the game.
Players were encouraged to get back to playing as soon as possible.
“That’s the culture we grew up in,” Primeau said. “I’m often asked if I knew then what I know now, would I have done things differently? Sadly, I can’t say that I would. And that’s because I’m a product of the environment I grew up in.
“Now I realize the real courage is having the ability to speak up and say that you don’t feel well.”
The two new brain trauma resource guides have been designed in simple terms to assist with signs, symptoms, treatment, prevention and support when it comes to dealing with concussions.
Understanding Brain Injury in Adolescence is designed for the adult in a young person’s life who has recently sustained a concussion; The Brain Injury Guide for Youth is specifically designed for youth.