In January, the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) announced the hiring of Dr. Michael Czarnota, a concussion consultant who will help the KIJHL advance its concussion policies.
Up until Dr. Czarnota’s hire, the KIJHL’s concussion policies were in line with standard Hockey Canada and BC Hockey protocols.
Cory Cameron, Director of Health and Safety with the KIJHL, says the decision to bring on Dr. Czarnota wasn’t influenced by any specific incidents, but rather to help develop a league-specific concussion protocol.
“I think painting junior hockey across Canada with one paintbrush can be a bit challenging. There are some things in our league and details that we would like to see addressed differently or elevated to a higher level. Dr. Czarnota will help us evaluate the protocols we have now to identify details that we want to adjust. But I don’t think anything will be removed from the standard protocols.”
Cameron says the addition of Dr. Czarnota will also help ensure the consistency of care throughout all 20 teams in the league and make it easier when players are traded from team to team.
“We have regulations in place within our league where athletes have certain requirements they need to fulfill regarding concussion education and preseason evaluations before playing,” he said.
“There are some organizations in our league that choose different ways of evaluating athletes, and that’s based on the resources available to them in their communities. Every team in our league fulfills those requirements, but we’re looking at a way of making that a bit more consistent.”
With Dr. Czarnota’s expertise, Cameron says the KIJHL will add more relevant education on concussion care and research, allowing each team to utilize his extensive and accessible neurological knowledge regularly when head injuries occur.
“Being able to offer that level of care to us is a huge step forward for our league. I think it’s groundbreaking for our level of hockey in the province right now. I know that there are some other leagues in our province at a similar level of hockey as us that don’t have a resource like this available to them, and I think it’s fantastic for the KIJHL to step up and bring somebody like him on board.”
Everyone involved with the league has welcomed Dr. Czarnota with open arms, stated Cameron, who claims he has received a lot of positive feedback since the KIJHL announced that they brought Dr. Czarnota on.
“It just brings more attention to the care of our athletes with this specific injury. Concussions are an injury that are very prominent in the media and sports. I think as a league, everybody needs to realize that we’re taking a lot of steps within our league to elevate the health and safety of our athletes in many areas.”