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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart

Former NHL player and Victoria native Geoff Courtnall addressed the media Tuesday regarding the severity of concussions in hockey, and spoke about the leading-edge treatment he has received to ease his career ending symptoms.

With nearly 800 points in 1,049 NHL games spanning a period of 16 years, Victoria native Geoff Courtnall was enjoying a productive career in the NHL, when six games into his 1999-2000 season with the St. Louis Blues, an elbow to the head knocked him out, and the resulting concussion – by his own estimate, the twelfth of his career –  and ensuing concussion related symptoms, forced him to retire from the game.
IMG 9894Former NHLer Geoff Courtnall addresses the media Tuesday regarding his concussion related problems and recent treatment.
Eleven years later, Courtnall still endures symptoms related to that career-ending injury, but has recently started to receive cutting-edge medical treatments through Oak Bay’s Valentus Clinic that allow him to now live a relatively normal and symptom-free life.
Courtnall was on hand Tuesday at the Ian Stewart Centre at the University of Victoria to talk to the media about his treatment, as well as to promote a speaking event that he and his Valentus doctors will be putting on this Friday, December 9th at 6:30 pm at the Puckmasters Hockey Training facility in Colwood.
“My main goal in speaking out about this is to help kids in Victoria, and Canada-wide for that matter, understand that if you do get a concussion, to get off the ice and take a full ten days to ensure you are OK” stressed Courtnall. 
“Too many parents feel their kid is fine and want to rush them back into play, but when you go through what I have gone through, especially what I have gone through in life after hockey, it is really important for parents and kids today to know what a concussion is, what the dangers are, what the symptoms are and what new treatment options are now available.”
“I’ve had symptoms for the ten or eleven years since I retired and tried all sorts of treatment options, with little success.  I was introduced to Valentus last year and went through their treatments over the past year or so and I can honestly say their treatments have changed my life.  I feel healthy again. I can function in every day life, whereas I could not do that a year or more ago.”
The Valentus approach to treating brain injuries and concussions is based upon something called brainwave optimization technology.  Dr Susan Simpson, a Director at Valentus and head of the brainwave optimization program, was also on hand Tuesday to explain the procedure:
“We basically measure brain wave activity and brain wave patterns of a patient while they perform certain tasks via a series of EEG sensors placed on the head.  These measurements provide a benchmark measurement for us and help us identify where the problem areas are in the brain.  Then we use what is called neurofeedback, where we translate these brain wave patterns into audible signals that the patient then hears via head phones. This in essence allows the brain to “hear” itself while it is performing these tasks to heal itself and essentially then be guided back into a healthy balanced state.”
IMG 9900Dr. Susan Simpson of Valentus describes what a concussion is and explains the neurofeedback technology to the media Tuesday.
Using these brain wave measurements, medical practitioners now have measurable, objective, scientific indicators that can be compared to the baseline measurements to tell whether a brain is healing is not.  They can rely on hard data and science, rather than a subjective assessment based on a how a patient “feels” or on their answers to basic questions on their health – which many players would often lie about – to decide whether an athlete is ready to resume normal activities again.
Courtnall is now talking to the NHL regarding the use of the brainwave optimization technology to establish benchmarks now for ALL players that can then be used down the road if needed for assessment and treatment should that player suffer a head injury at a later date.
While this new cutting-edge procedure certain looks promising and has helped Courtnall, it does not come cheap and depending on what level of medical coverage individuals have through their employer, it may not be a procedure that average every day families can afford, given that it costs $2,200 for the ten sessions required in the initial treatment program.
Dr.  Simpson notes that, “Unfortunately our program is not covered under the Provincial health plan so the government only pays for certain kinds of services performed by a licensed medical practitioner.  I am a registered Psychologist, so anyone who has extended health care that will cover those services can be reimbursed.”
“In the large scheme of things though, considering what we pay for health care, that is not a lot of money,and when you factor in the implications for a person’s health and life, it is a small price to pay.  Hopefully with the growing awareness regarding concussions and related legislation that is being considered, the governments will start to pay for our  neurofeedback procedure and other cutting edge services that are starting to emerge for treating concussions.”
Courtnall notes that Friday’s talk, “will essentially be to raise awareness about concussions to a focused group of hockey playing families [the event has been promoted to all the minor hockey associations in Victoria].  I want to do whatever I can to help young people stay away from concussions, or if they have suffered one, to give them their best possible chance to heal.”
The Friday event will begin at 6:30 pm at the Puckmasters Training Facility at 2657 Wilfert Road in Colwood.  Courtall and Dr. Simpson will also be joined by golf course superintendant Brian Youell, another Valentus client. Please arrive early as seating at the event will be limited.