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100 Mile House Wranglers welcome KIJHL’s new concussion expert

Wrangler’s president Greg Aiken looks forward to working with Dr. Michael Czarnota
100 Mile House Wrangler president Greg Aiken and head coach Dale Hladun are looking forward to seeing the KIJHL make the transition to a Junior A hockey level. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) is tackling concussions head-on.

On Wednesday, Jan. 31 the KIJHL announced it has entered into a partnership with Dr. Michael Czarnota, the Canadian Hockey League’s official neuropsychology consultant. Using his years of experience, Czarnota will help the KIJHL take steps to improve the concussion care available to its athletes. He’ll be working closely with Cory Cameron, the KIJHL Director of Health & Safety, who he’s known since 2006.

“Junior A has good, active players who get hurt just as much as anybody else. I really think there’s an opportunity there for the care to improve and really bring that up to more modern standards,” Czarnota said. “Cory was interested in trying to elevate the care for the athletes and it seemed like a natural fit to get back and work with him and hopefully make a big difference.”

Czarnota has a passion for hockey and wants to work with as many clubs as possible. He’s keen to bring concussion care in Junior A hockey to a comparable level of the services provided by the NFL, CHL and NHL.

Cameron, for his part, welcomed Czarnota with open arms and remarked he’s looking forward to working alongside him and bringing the league’s concussion management to a new level.

“I look forward to working directly with Dr. Czarnota to develop a KIJHL-specific Concussion Protocol, which will allow for details that may not currently exist in our protocols to be edited to fit our league operations specifically and to allow league teams to see how having Dr. Czarnota involved will allow the KIJHL to continue to be a leader in the Health & Safety landscape with Junior hockey in British Columbia,” Cameron said.

Grek Aiken, president of the 100 Mile House Wranglers, is also happy to have Czarnota as part of the league’s team. He said that this is a major step forward for the KIJHL’s concussion protocols.

“We can’t fall behind on any of that stuff, it’s obviously a serious topic these days with the speed of the game and strength of these players,” Aiken said. “Concussions are, unfortunately, a common thing now.”

Two years ago, Aiken said the Wranglers have invested in top-of-the-line CCM helmets for their players. He added it just made sense to upgrade from the middle tier helmets, especially because of the Wranglers’ tough-to-play-against philosophy.

Czarnota will start by distributing information to players, coaches, therapists and parents on contemporary concussion care so they know what to expect. From there Czarnota will provide assistance and instruction on the implementation of concussion care and review the success of these efforts.

He will also serve as an additional clinical resource, as needed, for teams and the league if there are complex situations or slow recoveries. This could include direct communication with appropriate team staff members or providing referrals for players to receive additional clinical evaluations from knowledgeable clinicians in suitable locations (proximity to team or home).

“I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the KIJHL and will certainly do my best to promote player health and safety,” Czarnota said.

Aiken said that he doesn’t know much about Czarnota but added that the Wrangler’s trainer, Rainer Meyer, will be working closely with him. He’s sure Czarnota will bring in some new changes and ideas to their concussion protocol which will “all be good.”

“It’s important for the parents that they know their son is going to be safe when they come to play in our league,” Aiken remarked. “The more knowledge and access we have to different ways of preventing and treating concussions the better.”

Patrick Davies

About the Author: Patrick Davies

An avid lover of theatre, media, and the arts in all its forms, I've enjoyed building my professional reputation in 100 Mile House.
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