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Football coaches get concussion training

Mandatory class first of its kind in Canada

Football B.C. is the first amateur sports organization in the country to require all of its 2,000 coaches to take a mandatory, online training course on concussions.

Introduced May 1, the comprehensive, 30minute self-guided tutorial is broken up by two pop quizzes to test a coach's understanding and retention. No prerequisite for medical expertise or schooling is required and a 12-question assessment follows. A passing grade is 90 per cent and coaches must retake the course each year.

"We wanted to have a consistent message and a way to educate people," said Football B.C. executive director Pat Waslen, who noted two years ago they first distributed the information the 20th -century way-on paper. At the time, he said, there was a shortage of relevant and specific Canadian information as well as a straightforward way to distribute it.

Sports groups in this country primarily rely on resources from the U.S. Center for Disease Control, but Waslen said the health care terminology and delivery doesn't mesh with the Canadian system.

Offering the course online was the next step. And for that, Football B.C. was able to turn to Think First, a national non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of brain and spinal cord injuries. Otherwise, coordinating an on-the-road workshop was difficult and prohibitive.

"We have football in Sooke, we have football in Prince George, we have football in Cranbrook," said Waslen, who stressed the value of reliable, up-to-date information available to all coaches online. ThinkFirst reviews and expands training material as researchers learn more about concussions, their repercussions and risks.

"We can be consistent and have the same training and education available for everybody in B.C.," he said. "It's a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned."

Of course, brains are at the very core of the concussion education course, particularly young, developing brains. Waslen, who has been involved with the football program at Notre Dame high school since the early '80s, remembers the smelling salts that lurked on sidelines in medical equipment bags.

"The first thing I remember doing, I opened up my medical kit and I grabbed this little capsule and went, 'What the heck is this?' I snapped it and it broke and I went to smell it and I almost gave myself whiplash. In those days, everybody carried them."

Today's coaches, parents and administrators are more aware and cautious of head trauma, he said. Waslen wants to see the provincial government move more quickly to enact a private member's bill that would make it law to sit every player with a suspected concussion until they recover.

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