Portage la Prairie, MB –
One small Canadian city is taking a big stand to protect its children from catastrophic brain injuries by replacing hockey with yoga.
Starting with hockey, Portage la Prairie is passing laws to have all contact sports, and all sports where accidental contact could occur, banned for those under 18 years old.
“Hockey is by far the most dangerous sport in the world for concussions,” Henrietta Walker said. “Because of the speed, hardness of the ice boards and goal posts, even with no body checking ,the sport is a hot-bed for brain trauma. It must be stopped.”
The move comes at the urging of Dr. Omalu the neuropathologist who originally coined the term Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE. Omalu is the author of ‘Truth Doesn’t Have a Side’ and was the inspiration behind the movie ‘Concussion’.
“There is no justifiable reason whatsoever why a child under the age of 18 should continue to play these games,” Dr. Omalu said in a recent interview.
Omalu warns that children receiving repeated blows to the head can suffer degenerative brain disease, memory loss, depression, suicide and makes them more likely to die before 42.
Since the risk of concussion increases with speed and contact, all children under 18 are restricted from playing hockey and football starting immediately, along with all forms of cycling, but the preventative measures will go farther.
“Any sport where you have children running, jumping, chasing and hitting or throwing balls at one another makes them vulnerable to a head and brain injury,” city official Henrietta Walker said. “By winter, we will have a ban in place for all sports. Minor sports, school sports, they will all be gone by Christmas. They are just too dangerous.”
The ban will have major implications for school physical education courses and the school division is scrambling to adapt the curriculum to restrict running, jumping, throwing and any activity that increases the risk of concussion.
“You have to ask yourself, do you love your children more than these sports?” Walker said. “Today, Portage is taking a stand for the children by opposing these violent and dangerous sports. It’s a proud moment.”
Basketball, volleyball, martial arts, soccer, lacrosse, tennis, baseball, softball, dodgeball, pickle ball, ultimate frisbee, curling, track and field, golf, and even badminton will be completely forbidden within the city limits. The committee will evaluate other activities like canoeing, kayaking, in-line skating, figure skating to determine if they are safe enough or if they should be done away with as well.
“We can’t be too careful when it comes to protecting our children’s minds,” Walker said. “Helmets on kids while they are awake is being studied in Sweden. Once those results are in we might move in that direction as well.”
The school division is looking at introducing various yoga and tai chi programs to help fill the void left by the sports. Educators are hopeful a form of virtual reality adapted sports will be available soon for Phys. Ed. Programs.
“Dancing might be safe enough,” Walker added. “As long as it wasn’t too vigorous and there is enough distance between participants so that contact won’t occur. Pairs dancing would require a helmet because of the increased tripping hazard.”
Stationary exercise equipment is being purchased but will have added safety features like padding, safety harnesses and, of course, helmets.
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