PUCCS: It Only Takes One

By: Kyle Gunn-Taylor, WNY Hockey Report

Sept 18, 2012

Imagine not being able to concentrate on the simplest daily task. Then mix in what it would feel like to constantly battle splitting headaches.

Combine those agonizing mental debilities with the inability to express to anyone, even your closest family and friends exactly how you feel and you’ll get a glimpse of what life was like for Philip Kane after sustaining his sixth documented concussion.

“I know I’ve had 6 documented,” Kane said, “Possibly as many as 9.”

Growing up in South Buffalo, Kane participated in a trio of physically demanding sports; football, hockey and lacrosse.

Last year, as a senior at Canisius High School, his dream was to eventually earn a college scholarship from his athletic prowess. After being knocked unconscious from a body check in a hockey game, his status to even graduate high school became cloudy.

He couldn’t concentrate on his school work forcing him to take incompletes. Those closest to him noticed a negative change in his daily demeanor and the headaches he was suffering from developed into migraines.

According to University at Buffalo neurosurgeon Dr. Elad Levy, the prolonged symptoms Kane withstood are typical of post-concussion syndrome.

The difference between post-concussion syndrome and an actual concussion are surprisingly differentiated, especially for someone who has endured more than one traumatic blow. The immediate warning signs of a concussion include; nausea, memory loss, dizziness, confusion, ear ringing, slurred speech and headache.

Post-concussion symptoms are more cognitive, involving; personality changes, impaired senses, sleep disturbance, depression, concentration issues and sensitivity to light that can last weeks, or even months after the initial brain jarring contact.

After seeing a discouraging spike in the number of children in and out of UB Neurosurgery, Dr. Levy founded the Program for Understanding Childhood Concussion and Stroke as an avenue to raise awareness.

“We need to make parents, coaches and players aware,” said Levy, “It only takes one concussion to change a life.”

In diagnosing a concussion in youth athletics communication between the three responsible parties – coaches, players and parents – is essential.

Beginning with the coach, who should be in tune with the game enough to realize one of the players has collided fiercely enough to have possibly caused a concussion. Sitting the player down, whether it’s the teams star or a fourth line role player is the proper precaution to take. Even if just for a shift or two until that player has clearly responded to simple questions and demonstrates the clarity to continue competing.

“I’ve definitely played through a bunch of concussions,” said, Kane “It screws your game up because your head is killing you and you play timid. When you play timid, you put yourself in more vulnerable positions.”

The player must be honest with how they feel after taking such a blow and keep in mind that the macho bravado that ‘I just got my bell rung’ is no longer an acceptable excuse to jeopardize long term health.

Any person who has competed physically at any level understands the pressures of playing through an injury, whether its minor or major, but it has become evident with the recent advancements in brain evaluation, that if a concussion is aggravated there can be lasting and life changing effects on the bodies most important organ.

If a concussion is suspected by the coach, the player’s parents should be notified, so they can have their child evaluated professionally and informed of the procedure for observing post-concussion symptoms.

As PUCCS focuses its aim to raise money for the research and development of a more standardized understanding of how to diagnose and treat concussions, there has been an unbelievable amount of outreach by the local business community.

“We’ve raised over $100,000 for research on concussion,” said, Levy “We’re getting better imaging and a better understanding of concussions.”

Beginning Friday, November 23 and running through Sunday, November 25, Holiday Twin Rinks will host the Second Annual PUCCS Charity Hockey Event.

Over the course of the weekend the event will feature a 36-team WNY Youth League tournament, a 16-team Adult Round Robin tournament and a Buffalo Sabres Alumni game.

The entry fee for the adult tournament is $1,000 per team and participants are encouraged to raise money to support the event. The team that raises the most money is rewarded with an opportunity to showdown against the Sabres Alumni.

“Our vision is to use the imaging resources available in medicine to develop the most accurate tools to assist clinicians and coaches to more accurately assess and identify the severity of injury and eventually determine when a player can safely return to the game.” — PUCCS website.

For more information on the tournament and how to become a sponsor for PUCCS visit their website www.PUCCS.org.

For Philip Kane, the post-concussion symptoms have drastically changed the way he lives his life. He is currently a freshman at Loyola University in New Orleans, and is allowed extra time for homework and tests due to his issues with concentration.

He stays fit by getting up for early morning swims, but misses the competitive nature of the contact sports of his youth.

Philip says he has no regrets. He likes the harshening of punishments for head checks and hitting from behind in hockey as a preventative measure.

His message to those who choose to participate in physically competitive sports is simple; be aware. There is no way to completely remove concussions from the sports that have been founded on physicality, but if the players doing the hitting understand the circumstances and potential consequences, and the players receiving the hit are mentally focused on the game, it will only help reduce the amount of debilitating brain injuries kids endure in the future.

Original article