Jr Sabres & Dent take on head injuries

(Amherst, NY) – It’s well known that hockey is a contact sport and that, from time to time, players at all age and skill levels will be at direct risk of a concussion.

As serious as concussions are, even more dangerous are the occurrences when players return to action too soon.

The Buffalo Junior Sabres and Dent Neurologic Institute are coming together in a new partnership to raise awareness of the importance of both recognizing and properly treating head injuries, as well as finding ways to avoid such injuries when possible.

“The Buffalo Junior Sabres are the highest level of amateur hockey in Western New York under the collegiate ranks,” said Buffalo Sabres President Larry Playfair. “Several of the players on the Junior Sabres weigh over 200 pounds and play in a league that is known for its physical brand of hockey.  Indeed the risk is great in this league and history has already proved that players in the OJHL are concussion prone.”

Last year, for example, the Dent Concussion/Headache Center examined three Buffalo Junior Sabres players after their head injuries. Fortunately, all players were able to return soon after their injuries, but not before Junior Sabres head coach Grant Ledyard received the OK from the neurologist. Doctors at Dent quickly noticed the team’s appreciation for ensuring the players were truly safe to return.

“Here was the coach of the highest caliber amateur hockey team, full of players with a short time to prove themselves to college and professional scouts, willing to put the safety of the player first,” said Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, director of the Dent Concussion/Headache Center. “The message became clear: if the Junior Sabres can follow a safe return to play protocol, so can every player at every level of amateur hockey.”

After a series of discussions, the Junior Sabres and Dent formed their new partnership, which centers on how to educate and impress upon coaches, trainers, players and parents. The partnership’s awareness campaign targets four essential components:

  • Obtain baseline preseason tests so medical decision making after a head injury is faster and more accurate
  • Prevent head injuries as best as possible
  • Recognize an injury and “when-in-doubt-sit-them-out”
  • Receive timely medical care and recommendations from physicians that understand the brain.

Each element of concussion prevention and care is being explicitly addressed through this partnership.

All Junior Sabres players received preseason IMPACT testing administered in a proctored environment. In addition, players are now fitted with Messier M11 helmet, which was specially developed through the Messier Project for safe hockey.

As partners, the Junior Sabres and Dent are reaching out together to other local teams in an effort to educate coaches and parents on potential signs of concussion-like symptoms in their players, how to diagnose it and what to do.  For example, new laws now require specialized physicians to sign off before the athlete returns to action.

In addition, Sabres Alumni will be participating in a hockey game next month to raise awareness of the Program for Understanding Childhood Concussion and Stroke (PUCCS), a group the Sabres Alumni and Dent Neurologic are proud to support.

Junior Sabres leaders, who are themselves prominent figures in the community as Sabres Alumni, are jointly participating in seminars attended by coaches, trainers, family physicians, players and parents. Coaches throughout Western New York are being provided playmaking clipboards imprinted with concussion facts and contact info so that time critical information is readily available when needed most – on the bench.

“This kind of program protects players’ careers, and can even get them back on the ice sooner.” said Ledyard. “Already this year one of our players was hit hard and we thought he had a concussion. Dr. Mechtler saw him the next day and it turned out his headaches were muscle related. After some simple treatment and short rest, he returned to score a critical goal in our next game.”


The Dent Neurologic Institute was formed in 1963, and is one of the largest free standing neurology practices in the country. Dent physicians received their training at such prestigious institutions as Duke, Harvard, NIH, Cleveland Clinic, MD Anderson and Washington University. Comprehensive modern services are available to address the full range of brain, spine and nervous system injuries and illnesses. Its professionals serve on national committees, including the American Academy of Neurology and advisory panels to the US Congress. If you are interested in more information or an on-site educational session for your team or organization, contact Maria Caserta, Director of Community Outreach and Education at 716.250.6004 or mcaserta@dentinstitute.com or “Contact Us” at www.dentinstitute.com.