Rebels coach speaks out on concussions

Five concussions in his amateur and pro-hockey career. It’s a stat Jesse Wallin would rather not have next to his name.

The first came while playing peewee hockey when he was checked from behind. He got back into the game but a short time later he noticed his vision starting to go and he experienced some projectile vomiting – a sure sign that something was wrong.

“My mom was a nurse fortunately and recognized what was going on and that was the first time I had ever heard of a concussion,” said the Red Deer Rebels bench boss.

He missed about a week with each of the five concussions, returning to play the game he dreamt of playing from the time he was a young boy.

While in the midst of a pro-career with Detroit, one hit basically made that dream vanish and a new reality emerged.

“The injury occurred early in October and it was the following summer I was informed I wouldn’t be cleared to play again so it changed the game for me, it changed my life, it changed the course of our lives.”

Jenn Wallin was pregnant with their first daughter Isabella which added to the stress and the magnitude of that news.

“All of a sudden things kind of came to a screeching halt,” she pointed out.

A big issue from her perspective was the change in her husband’s personality, becoming irritable and moody. While that was hard to deal with it was made easier with the numerous resources available to both of them.

Fast forward many years and people are finding more information about concussions not only in hockey but a long list of other activities.

There is even more being learned about the brain and how it’s affected by these injuries, said Jesse.

“I think it certainly has to change the way that society approaches them, how we treat them, the prevention of them and it’s an ongoing thing but certainly change is taking place now more than ever.”

Both are involved in an upcoming workshop on concussions and hope is the biggest thing Jesse would like people attending to walk away with.

“There was a time going through this I felt there wasn’t any for myself.

“Just hearing someone else’s story, something may resonate with you and lead to a realization that what you’re dealing with is not normal,” added Jenn.

“You just assume that is who they are now and that is the way life is always going to be and you don’t realize that things can actually change and get better.”

The former player and current coach doesn’t want to see the sport he loves get watered down but change is needed.

“As a traditionalist I’d love to see hockey maintain a physicality in the game, I think that’s a big part of hockey but I think if we’re going to be able to do that there’s going to have to be a level of respect in the game,” he emphasized.

“It’s the old adage, do unto others as you would have done to you.”

Concussion: A Game Changer, runs June 9th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Frontier Room at Westerner Park.