Government to tackle head injuries in youth sports
Published Tuesday, March 15, 2011 10:30PM EDT
Amid the public outcry over head injuries in the NHL, the federal government says it plans to fund "injury prevention initiatives" for children and youth sports, CTV News has learned.
Minister of State for Sport Gary Lunn and Senator Larry Smith will make the announcement in Montreal on Wednesday, according to government sources.
The funding will go towards programs that try to prevent concussions, fractures and other injuries in hockey, snow sports, cycling and water sports.
"With head injuries in professional sports in the news as of late, the Government of Canada is acting on a prevention strategy with a focus on young people involved in amateur sport," a statement obtained by CTV News says.
The announcement comes amid growing scrutiny of head injuries at the professional level after Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara sent a Montreal Canadiens' player to hospital with a broken vertebra and a concussion last week.
Chara knocked Canadiens' forward Max Pacioretty unconscious during a game last week by ramming him into a stanchion. The 22-year-old was taken to hospital and was released days later.
A referee gave Chara a game misconduct. The NHL chose not to penalize him further, and Chara has said he did not intend to injure Pacioretty.
But the vicious hit has sparked a police investigation by Montreal police. The league's handling of the matter has also drawn criticism from fans, corporate sponsors, and from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
On Tuesday evening, Montreal Canadiens fans gathered to send a message to the NHL about the incident.
At least 1,600 Canadiens fans were expected to turn out at the Bell Centre. The protest was organized partly through a Facebook page by people who say they want an end to on-ice violence.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said he stands by the decision not to suspend Chara.
In response to the outcry, he also announced a new protocol on Monday that says every player exhibiting concussion-like symptoms must go to the dressing room and be assessed by a doctor. The current guidelines allow a player to remain on the bench and be assessed by a trainer.
But Ken Dryden, a Liberal MP and member of the NHL Hall of Fame, said the league has consistently shown a reluctance to deal with head injuries, despite a growing body of evidence about their lasting effects.
"It's not the individual incident," Dryden said Tuesday on CTV's Power Play. "It's the fact that these things are happening with frequency and also with greater consequences. And so it requires a really strong focus."
The nature of the game has changed "overwhelmingly" over the past several decades, he said. But previous rule changes haven't made it any less competitive.
"Players are competitors," he said. "They find a way of competing within whatever rules you give them and the game has become more interesting over time, for the most part."
With files from CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife and The Canadian Press