One Toronto minor hockey  league is introducing a program to monitor hits to the head.

Toronto minor hockey league confronts concussion culture

'We are recognizing the injury more than we ever have in the past...'

Greater Toronto Area hockey leagues are starting to think hard about concussion prevention.

The North Toronto Hockey Association (NTHA) has taken the first step and launched a brain injury prevention and awareness program making baseline concussion testing mandatory.

A NTHA board member, and one of the driving forces behind the brain injury program, Blair Robinson, has been dedicated to raising the program’s awareness in minor hockey leagues.

“The annual testing is a tool that is available to a doctor, creating a measurement they can refer to if there was ever an incident of a suspected concussion,” Robinson said.

Dr. Nick Reed, a clinician scientist specializing in sport concussion education and rehabilitation, at the Toronto Concussion Research Centre, says concussion awareness and knowledge is a lot higher now, especially after severe injuries at the professional level.

“Young people hear about concussions more often and we are recognizing the injury more than we ever have in the past, Reed said.”

High profile players who have suffered concussions, such as Sidney Crosby and Eric Lindros, have had their experiences influence thinking in the minor leagues.

There is a possibility that the game is being played differently, Reed added.

“The culture now is leaning less at sport, participation and sportsmanship and looking more at competition, intensity, and aggression, he said.”

Although the testing has been around for a long time, baseline concussion testing has never been part of league safety regulations until now.

Robinson says the NTHA have solidified their commitment to educating their players, trainers and coaches.

“We provide seminars at the start of the hockey season about concussion awareness highlighting what to look for, and what the protocols are when returning to play … we are trying to inform everyone as best we can,” Robinson said.