Kelowna woman urging head trauma prevention in hockey after husband's struggles - InfoNews

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Kelowna woman urging head trauma prevention in hockey after husband's struggles

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
February 11, 2019 - 6:30 PM

KELOWNA - Shannon Lavell likes to joke that while some people are raised Catholic, she was "raised hockey."

Her father and brother played the sport and she spent her youth skating on frozen ponds and in 2017 she married retired NHL player Gene Carr. While she's loved Canada's national past time, she's seen firsthand the dangerous side-effects the sport can have on players.

Lavell said her husband, who played in the NHL in the 1970s, suffers a litany of medical problems due to injuries stemming from hockey. Lavell highlights brain trauma as a major cause of pain for Carr, who was part of a brain trauma-related class action lawsuit against the NHL which was settled last year.

Lavell, who lives in Kelowna, was dissatisfied with the settlement, which she said didn't put enough pressure on the organization to protect players for serious brain injuries and concussions. She wants the NHL to take more proactive steps to limit brain trauma, pointing to the NFL's recent measures as a model worth following.

"I'm a nurse, I understand prevention," she said. "We need to take action."

Concussions have been a hot-button issue in hockey for the last few years. Researchers have found concussions can have long-term effects on younger players. Longtime player Rick Nash retired last month, citing concussion problems. The Canadian government has even released a guideline for dealing with concussions in sports.

Concussions have been linked with a myriad of health problems ranging from headaches and dizziness to memory loss. Multiple concussions can lead to more severe brain trauma. Athletes in high-impact sports can run the risk of being repeatedly concussed. 

Lavell crafted a petition on Feb. 6 asking the NHL to take a leadership role in preventing head injuries in hockey. She thinks the conversation around head trauma in hockey isn't discussed nearly enough.

"I think it's necessary to look at what's happened," she said. "We need to talk about these things."

Beyond the NHL, Lavell wants to spark a conversation around concussions and head injuries. To that end, she recently created the Game Change for the Love of Hockey Facebook page. She posts videos, articles, statistics, and personal commentary about head trauma in the sport with the hope of getting Canadians to talk about and confront a difficult topic.

"I believe it's time for some grassroots social change," she said.

Lavell said she still struggles to watch the game after everything she's learned about concussions, but she recognizes its importance in communities. She hopes the game can be made safer with head trauma prevention.

"Let's have a bigger conversation," she said. "[Hockey] is a family thing."

—This story was corrected on Feb. 16, 2019 at 1:02 p.m. for spelling.


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