A Labour of Love
By Lois Kalchman
It has been 12 years, since the GTHL became the first minor hockey league in Canada to insist that any of its players who suffered a concussion bring a physician’s letter of clearance before being allowed back on the ice.
In a further fight to keep the game safe, the league has posted on GTHLCanada.com Concussion & You: A Handbook for Parents and Kids, a publication written by Dr. Nick Reed of the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto.
“It is the quality and reputation of Nick and his organization,” GTHL president Don West replied when asked why this publication was used in place of others like it. “We highly encourage all our players and families to read it.”
Dr. Reed calls his dedication to a concussion awareness and education program a “labour of love.”
That is just one telling reason the 33-year-old occupational therapist received the 2015 Dr. Tom Pashby Sports Safety Fund Award on Nov. 22, an honour presented to a Canadian for outstanding contribution toward the prevention of catastrophic injuries in sports and recreational activities. It is accompanied by a $10,000 gift and will be recognized in the Canada Sport Hall of Fame in Calgary.
Dr. Tom Chau, vice president of research at Holland Bloorview, nominated Dr. Reed for his “remarkable devotion to promote proper management of concussion and safe return to sport.”
“He has a passion for concussion research that, for him, has become a life mission,” said Dr. Chau. “He is amazing and very innovative, a pioneer blazing in concussion education and awareness.”
His pioneer efforts were particularly evident in June when Dr. Reed organized “One Voice,” the first-ever international symposium on pediatric concussion.
“We are very pleased that we have an occupational therapist, not necessarily a medical doctor, who has won the award,” said Fund chairman Bill Pashby. “We are also pleased to give it to someone whose work is for children specifically as many children suffer from catastrophic injuries as well.”
Dr. Reed has earned many degrees from McMaster University and the University of Toronto, including a PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences. Already a recognized researcher and clinician with many accolades, Dr. Reed teamed with colleague Christine Provvidenza, a knowledge transition specialist, to create the handbook.
“We run a weekly education and support session in the evening – with no fee – at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital,” said Dr. Reed. “It has been a labour of love.”
The Concussion & You handbookis written in language that parents and children can understand – without medical jargon – and has been widely distributed online through Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.
Dr. Reed is not sitting in an ivory tower – he suffered many concussions during his days playing basketball and lacrosse.
“I played lacrosse up to Jr. A for the Toronto Beaches and was drafted in 2002 by the [National Lacrosse League’s] Rochester Knighthawks,” he said, adding that he remembers not feeling great after being concussed. “I saw blue, my vision was affected.”
Dr. Reed says those who have sustained a concussion need “tangible strategies to use during recovery. We provide kids and family with tools, an activity log and [instruction] to make a plan for recovery.”
Provvidenza has worked with notable physicians such as world-renowned concussion experts Dr. Charles Tator, a neurosurgeon, and Dr. Karen Johnston, who has ministered to many NHL players. She also has high praise for Dr. Reed.
“Nick is amazing, a go-getter,” Provvidenza said. “He pushes the boundaries of concussion education and thinks outside the box, creating optimal strategies for children, coaches and parents.”
Those efforts aren’t lost on the GTHL, according to executive director Scott Oakman who attended the June symposium.
“There were more than 50 people from around the world attending,” Oakman said. “There were clinicians and researchers and what I found very interesting is everyone was facing the same challenges and the issues were consistent.”
Oakman added that the GTHL is currently exploring further collaboration with Dr. Reed.
“The real key is that [the handbook] is pediatric specific and our players are primarily under 16,” he said, noting that in the past most written material and research was pointed at adults. “The brain of a child is different.”
Editor’s Note: Lois Kalchman has been covering minor hockey for more than 30 years. She helped found the Dr. Tom Pashby Sports Safety Fund Award and in 2014 was presented with the honour, a distinction she shared with co-founders, Virginia Edmonds and Bev Woods-Percival.
Dr. Tom Pashby Sports Safety Fund Award
Dr. Reed is the 12th recipient of this prestigious award. Visit DrPashby.ca for more information.