Patrolling the sidelines of Garden City Collegiate Football games are referees, coaches, and now athletic therapist Heather Normand.
“Just having eyes on the field,” said Normand.
And what she’s keeping her eyes open for are concussions.
It’s part of a new initiative from the Seven Oaks School Division to pair athletic therapists with teams all season long. “Once you get to know your athletes, it’s a huge component of giving a differential diagnosis of those concussions,” said Normand.
Head coach Beau Wilks says he’s glad Normand is there.
“When you have someone that can actually do an assessment for them, and give you that feedback instantaneously, it’s a lot easier as a coach to manage the game, and know your players are going to be in good hands,” said Wilks.
And not just football players. The division is spending up to $20,000 this year to have athletic therapists at all hockey, lacrosse and other contact sport events this year.
“We live in a world where there are real risks. And kids should run some risks,” said Brian O’Leary,, superintendent of the division. “But as adults can we manage it with appropriate supervision and appropriate treatment when there’s an injury.”
Heather Normand says not players appreciate it when she benches them.
“I’m still getting the stink eye!” she said. “But you’d rather miss a game then miss your career.”
And that’s why players like Kostyantyn Kolomiyets say they’re all for this new program.
“Once you get off the field, you know someone is going to be there for you. It’s not like you’re going to be alone, and struggling by yourself.”
The school division says its coaches have been following a concussion protocol for a number of years. This new program is seen as an addition to safety efforts it has already undertaken.