In early February, the Eastern College Athletic Conference, of which the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams are members, partnered with the Headway Foundation, a group focused on concussion awareness, for the ECAC Hockey Concussion Awareness Weekend Goals Challenge.
Fans were asked to pledge a donation to the foundation’s “New Tough” concussion awareness campaign for each goal scored by their favorite teams over the weekend’s games. Per the Headway Foundation, the New Tough Campaign represents an effort to change the mentality towards concussions in athletics.
Instead of reinforcing traditional standards of toughness, such as playing through serious injury, the campaign is attempting to teach athletes it is just as tough to put your health, especially your brain-health, first.
The campaign asks athletes to commit to the New Tough Pact, which involves reporting possible concussion symptoms and staying patient during recovery, encouraging brain-injured teammates to seek help and offer support while they heal and playing the game within its rules by avoiding illegal hits from behind, to the head and neck “I fully support the New Tough Campaign and believe that it is a great message that needs to continue to spread to coaches and athletes at all levels of participation,” said Union’s Director of Athletics Jim McLaughlin ’93, “The Headway Foundation is a terrific organization that continues to raise awareness about the impact of concussions.”
The Headway Foundation, a non-profit organization, was started by three former ECAC hockey players who all suffered serious concussions while playing.
For two of the founders, Danny Otto, a former member of the Yale men’s ice hockey team, and Paige Decker, a former Yale women’s ice hockey team member, concussions ended their playing careers. Josephine Pucci, the third founder, was able to later return to the ice after being forced to leave the Harvard women’s ice hockey team due to a concussion. Pucci went on to win a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics as a member of the United States’ Women’s National team.
All three underwent long, arduous recoveries, inspiring them to come together to improve concussion management and awareness for the next generation. McLaughlin believes the attitude towards concussions is changing for the better and hopes awareness continues to be valued. “The views on concussions have changed dramatically since my time as a student-athlete at Union,” added McLaughlin, “All of us are fully aware of the long-term effect of concussions, and as a result, the treatment has evolved to ensure the long-term health and safety of the student-athletes.”