Thursday, October 4, 2007

Colin Robinson on player deaths . . .

From The Daily News of Friday, Oct. 5, 2007 . . .

In Colin Robinson’s worst nightmare, the veteran trainer, who is in his third season with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, has a player collapse during a game or practice.
“For sure . . . no question,” Robinson said during Blazers’ practice at Interior Savings Centre on Thursday. He then pointed to his right and added: “That’s why there is a defibrillator at the end of the bench.”
Asked if he has ever had to use it, Robinson gave a rueful smile and said: “I have . . . on a dummy.”
He then leaned back and knocked on wood.
Collapsing players, defibrillators and such are very much on the minds of hockey people these days, what with the deaths of Kamloops defenceman Darcy Robinson, who wasn’t related to Colin, and Adam Litteken.
Darcy Robinson, 26, died Sept. 27 in the first period of an Italian Serie A game between his Asiago Lions and AS Renon. A celebration of his life will be held Monday, 11 a.m., at the Calvary Temple, 1205 Rogers Way.
Litteken, 16, died Wednesday in the St. Louis, Mo., suburb of Cottleville. He collapsed while on the ice warming up for practice with his Francis Howell Central high school teammates. A doctor who was at the rink at the time wasn’t able to revive Litteken, neither could paramedics who were called to the scene.
These recent incidents also brought to mind the case of Chris Fleming, the trainer with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen who collapsed and died on Nov. 2, 2000, during a game of shinny at the Saddledome. He was 34.
“Chris Fleming was as fit a guy as there was,” Robinson said. “He rode his bike to work, even in the winter. He always watched what he ate.”
It turned out that Fleming, Robinson said, had heart disease that had never been detected.
“I talked to him all the time,” said Robinson, who was with the Swift Current Broncos at the time. “He was a great person and a great trainer.
“But he was one of the last guys I would have thought that would happen to.”
So why does this happen to athletes?
“These athletes are in good shape,” Robinson said, “and it’s hard to pick up some things without going the whole nine yards.”
Speaking in generalities, Robinson added that while things certainly have improved over time, there are athletic organizations that simply don’t have the wherewithal to carry out anything more than basic medical tests.
“For the most part, these are elite athletes and it’s easy to miss things (in basic medicals),” Robinson said.
The Blazers had a bit of a scare two years ago when left-winger Travis Dunstall, then a 16-year-old rookie, was found to have a heart murmur.
“He underwent an echocardiogram right away and everything turned out to be OK,” Robinson said. “If it had been serious, he wouldn’t have played after that.”
It’s important, Robinson said, that teams “do the right thing” when they pick up the wrong signs.
When doctors discovered Dunstall’s situation, Robinson said, the team was in communication with Dunstall’s mother and the family doctor.
“Communication is so important,” Robinson said. “As it turned out, his folks and the family doctor had never noticed anything.”
Robinson has gone out on the ice to treat spinal injuries “from hits from behind” but said the worst injury he has had to treat was a spiral fracture of a femur that occurred in a midget AAA game in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. At the time, Robinson was with the Red Deer midgets.
“It was a broken femur that was blocking an artery,” Robinson said. “You could die from that. I was 16 at the time.”
As for having to deal with a situation such as occurred with Darcy Robinson or Litteken, the Blazers trainer said: “I couldn’t even imagine.”

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