By Jordan Tougas

Photo by Gabrielle Skjersven

NAIT Athletics is taking steps to try to keep their players’ brains healthy while they play. One of these steps is an extensive concussion protocol that athletes must go through.

Each NAIT Ook goes through a concussion test before the start of the season when they are healthy. The test measures normal brain function and sets a benchmark for the player.

If a player suffers a head injury, they are immediately taken out of the game and go through the same evaluation, comparing their pre-season score with their current score. They’re also asked to rate things like their levels of dizziness, pain and sensitivity to light. This helps trainers determine whether or not the player has a concussion.

It isn’t just hockey or football players that deal with concussions. In February, Allie Hunder and Leah Vandenboogaard, two players on the women’s basketball team, were assessed for concussions during a game. While Vandenboogaard was cleared by athletic trainers, Hunder was out for a full week while she went through the concussion protocol before she was cleared to play again.

“Our staff needs to make sure that nobody is getting hurt out there and that we act appropriately when such an occurrence happens,” said Mat Bonneau, an athletic therapist with the Ooks.

Following the diagnosis, the players work with athletic therapists and trainers to work on recovery. When major symptoms start to go away, they are put on a training plan in the gym. The plan starts with low-intensity exercises like stretching and walking. As the athlete continues to recover, the trainers increase speed and intensity until the athlete can be play without symptoms.

Brendan Jensen, the starting goaltender for the Ooks men’s hockey team has seen four concussions over the course of his career.

“Each time is different. Sometimes it’s minor and sometimes it’s major. It really depends on the kind of hit, weather it was a stick up high or a check to the head. There are so many variables,” said Jensen.

In January during a home game against the Red Deer College Kings, Jensen was hit by Chance Longjohn halfway through the game causing Jensen to fall backwards and hit his head on the ice. Jensen was diagnosed with a concussion and went three weeks without game time.

“I don’t remember what happened exactly, I just remember waking up in the morning and the sun shining through the window was painful, ”Jensen said.

While the protocol may seem extensive, it is there for the safety of the players.

“We really just want all are players to be safe while playing,” said Bonneau.

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