The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston
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Concussions in Sport

We Can Do Better:
Governor General’s Conference on Concussions in Sport

His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston will host a conference on concussions in sport on Tuesday, December 6, 2016, at Rideau Hall.

Driven by the Governor General’s strong desire for Canadian youth to play safe and continue to get involved in sport and physical activity—the objectives of the one-day conference are to bring together federal, provincial and territorial government representatives and key stakeholders in the sport, recreation, health and education sectors to advance collaboration in the development of a national approach to manage, detect and prevent concussions. The event is presented in partnership with Sport Canada and the Sport Information Resource Centre.

Lineup of Panellists and Conference Themes

The conference will feature panellists speaking on four themes:

Concussions in Professional Sports

Étienne Boulay, Retired CFL Player

Former Canadian football safety Étienne Boulay most recently played for the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, with whom he won the 100th Grey Cup championship in 2012. He previously garnered two additional Grey Cup wins with the Montreal Alouettes in 2009 and 2010. Mr. Boulay is candid about his struggles with addiction and mental health issues, as well as the side effects of concussions. He is a proud spokesman for the Bell Let’s Talk campaign.

Matt Dunigan, Retired CFL Player

Matt Dunigan is known to many as a football legend who won the Grey Cup in 1987 and 1991. A 14-year CFL standout, Mr. Dunigan joined TSN in 1999 as one of the CFL's most accomplished and celebrated players. In 2006, he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and also named one of TSN’s Top 50 CFL Players of the modern era. Twelve diagnosed concussions ended his stellar football career, but he has become a concussion crusader. Through the CFL and its players’ association, he’s a key member of a project designed to educate players, coaches and parents on concussions. He wants to spread the word on everything from managing concussions to avoiding them through proper techniques so that fewer players will have to suffer. He also wants to bequeath his brain to science.

Eric Lindros, Retired NHL Player

Eric Lindros is considered one of the most dominant power forwards in the history of hockey. His NHL career spanned 13 seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, the New York Rangers, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Dallas Stars. After sustaining multiple concussions, Mr. Lindros retired from hockey in November 2007. He became an outspoken advocate on the issue of concussions in sport, notably in the fight to have Rowan’s Law passed in the Ontario legislature. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016.

Olympic and Paralympic Athletes Overcoming Concussions

Kristina Groves, Retired Olympic Speed Skater

Four-time Olympic medallist Kristina Groves is Canada’s most decorated speed skater, with 13 career medals in the World Single Distances Championships. At a World Cup race in Berlin in 2010, she crashed into the barriers and sustained a concussion that ended her season. Now retired from the sport, Ms. Groves is a proud ambassador for Right to Play, and a speaker with Clean Air Champions and the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary’s YES program.

Rosie MacLennan, Olympic Trampolinist

Rosie MacLennan made history at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio when she became the first trampolinist to ever win back-to-back Olympic gold medals and the first Canadian woman to win two gold medals in an individual event. She was the only Canadian to win a gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Having suffered a concussion during training in 2015, Ms. MacLennan underwent gruelling mental and physical rehabilitation before she was able to return to the sport.

Tara Whitten, Olympic Cyclist

Canadian cyclist Tara Whitten made her Olympic debut at the London 2012 Olympic Games where she won bronze as a member of the team pursuit. A passionate researcher, she pursued a Ph.D. in neurosciences while training for the next Olympics. But a crash during an orientation trip to Rio left her with a fractured skull and weeks of recuperation in a neck brace. She persevered, finishing second in the time trial at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau, and successfully completed her studies. Ms. Whitten was Canada’s top finisher in the individual time trial in Rio.

Karolina Wisniewska, Retired Paralympic Alpine Skier

Born in Warsaw, Poland, Karolina Wisniewska was a member of Canada's Disabled Alpine Ski Team (CDAST) from 1995 until 2004. She learned to ski at the age of 5 as a form of physiotherapy for the cerebral palsy affecting her lower body. For many years, she raced against able-bodied competitors before becoming a member of the Alberta Disabled Alpine Team in 1994, and CDAST a year later. At the 2002 Paralympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, she earned the unique distinction of becoming the first Canadian alpine skiing athlete in either the Paralympic or Olympic Winter Games to win 4 medals.

Keynote Speech: “State of Play: Where We Are and Where We Go From Here”

Ken Dryden, Retired NHL Goaltender

Ken Dryden was a goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens and for Team Canada ’72, and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983. He has written extensively on concussions in sport and has organized community conferences on concussions across Canada.

Improving Concussion Management–The Medical Perspective

Pierre Frémont, Professor at the Faculty of Medicine at Laval University and Chair of the Canadian Concussion Collaborative

Dr. Frémont received his diploma from the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine in 1998, before becoming a team doctor in university football and both major junior and professional hockey, as well as on the international downhill skiing and figure skating circuits. He was also team doctor during the 1999 Pan Am Games and the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. Since 2013, he has chaired the Canadian Concussion Collaborative, which has developed a position statement backed by 13 major Canadian organizations. He also oversaw the collaborative development, by five Canadian professional organizations, of an exercise prescription tool as part of the Exercise is Medicine® Canada initiative.

David Mulder, Team Physician with the Montreal Canadiens

Dr. Mulder has been associated with the Montreal Canadiens organization since 1963, and served as president of the NHL Team Physicians Society from 2003 to 2006. Dr. Mulder was a leader in traumatology and chief surgeon at the Montreal General Hospital from 1977 to 1998; he received an Award of Merit from the institution for his work. He is a Member of the Order of Canada and in October 2012, he was awarded the U.S. National Safety Council Award for his role in developing a province-wide trauma system in Quebec.

Charles Tator, Neurosurgeon at Krembil Neuroscience Centre and Toronto Western Hospital

Dr. Charles Tator is dedicated to preventing spinal cord injury, particularly in sports and recreation. His research and advocacy has led to new legislation and guidelines to reduce such injuries in hockey. He played a key role in developing the Canadian Brain and Nerve Health Coalition (2002), which brought Canadian organizations together to promote greater research and public awareness of neurological conditions. He is a Member of the Order of Canada and was inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame in 2003.

Roger Zemek, Associate Professor and Director of Clinical Research at The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario

Dr. Zemek specializes in pediatric emergency medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). As a member of CHEO’s research institute, he has focused his research on pediatric concussion and post-concussive syndrome. Dr. Zemek is also on the Ontario province-wide working group for acute pediatric asthma guideline development, and has studied options to improve how pediatric mental health crises are handled in emergency rooms.

We Can Do Better: Advancements in Addressing Concussions

Dan Cass, Chair of Rowan’s Law Advisory Committee

Dr. Dan Cass is the chair of the Rowan’s Law Advisory Committee, which is dedicated to the detection, prevention and treatment of head injuries, particularly among young athletes and students. He is also the medical vice-president at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto. Throughout his career, he has maintained a strong focus on quality and patient safety, and more specifically, on enhancing access to timely emergency care.

Monique Charbonneau, Head Therapist at BC Rugby

Monique Charbonneau is a vital part of BC Rugby and its players’ well-being. As the club’s head therapist and medical director for provincial teams and events, she is also a member of its Player Welfare Group. Ms. Charbonneau has done extensive research into concussions, and uses an active approach to learning to raise awareness among team members, coaches, parents and medical staff. She was also appointed to the viaSport Sport Safety Advisory Group as an expert in injury prevention and concussion.

Michel Fafard, Director of Safety Promotion in Sports and Recreation at the Ministry of Education and Higher Learning of Quebec

Michel Fafard is the director of safety promotion in sports and recreation at the Ministry of Education and Higher Learning of Quebec. Owing to his university coach training and personal achievements in hockey, he was tasked with overseeing safety issues in this field when he entered government in 1984. He has been involved in several of the Association québécoise des arénas et des installations récréatives et sportives’s files, as well as in enforcing the Act respecting safety in sports. He carries out numerous responsibilities that promote safe participation in sports and recreation so as to prevent concussions.

Aaron Geisler, Manager of Development at Football Canada

Coach Aaron Geisler has been with the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees since 2012. He holds a master’s degree in kinesiology and is the technical director at Football Canada. Mr. Geisler is a technical coordinator with the organization’s Safe Contact initiative, an integral part of the National Coach Certification Program that aims to prevent concussions in football.
Date modified: April 24, 2017