Halifax Mooseheads GM Cam Russell expects improved medical testing in wake of Jordan Boyd tragedy

While the cause of Jordan Boyd's death is not yet known, what's paramount is to determine what safeguards can be erected to reduce the possibility of another teenage junior hockey player dying after going into cardiac arrest.

[Previously: Boyd’s death sends shockwaves throughout hockey community]

The 16-year-old Boyd was eulogized last Saturday after collapsing during workouts on Aug. 12 on the first day of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan's training camp. There are no easy answers, especially since the consensus appears to be that there are often almost no warning signs that a young person has hypertrophy cardiomyopathy (HCM), the underlying heart condition which the late Windsor Spitfires captain Mickey Renaud was found to have had after his passing in 2008. Ultimately, since no one in the hockey industry wants to see this recur, it's a safe bet new measures are likely in the QMJHL. Halifax Mooseheads GM Cam Russell expects as much.

From Glenn MacDonald:

“Our league is looking into the medical exams that we give our players,” Russell said in an interview Tuesday. “When you’re talking about your kids’ health, that’s a No. 1 priority for our league to look into.

“Obviously with a tragedy like this happening, we’re looking to improve them. Unfortunately, it takes a tragedy to improve part of the process.

“We have never put anyone on the ice without a full medical exam. It’s one of those things where you’re always looking to see what else you can do now when something like this happens. How can we improve it?”

... Russell said the QMJHL does not have cardiac exams done on its players. But the former NHL defenceman said “it’s impossible to detect everything.”

“I played in the NHL and the medical evaluations they give their players are 2-3 hours long with EKGs (Electrocardiograms),” Russell said.

“But it wasn’t still enough to see if a guy like Jiri Fischer had a heart defect." (Halifax Chronicle-Herald)

The Globe & Mail's Sean Gordon and Al Maki reported last week that, "Basic diagnostic tests such as electrocardiograms (EKG) aren’t conducted as a matter of course for junior players ... it's up to individual teams to decide how far they want to go in their screening." Their report also pointed out that the Canadian Hockey League "couldn’t confirm whether any changes had been adopted in light of Renaud’s death [five years ago]."

It's obviously complex, since the human heart is literally a mystery even to medical professionals; HCM is practically undetectable. There would at least be some peace of mind for Quebec League teams if they did give each player a cardiac exam at the start of the season.

One gap in the system that might have been highlighted, unfortunately by the needless loss of a young life so full of promise, is a need for across-the-board uniformity all medical screening. That Globe report states each team in the Q has to have a defibrillator in the arena (there wasn't one in the building in 2009 when 19-year-old KHL player Alexei Cherepanov died). That rule would seem like a no-brainer, but according to BTN's own Mike Sanderson, who covered the Boyd story last week, there's nothing stating as much in the QMJHL's administrative and playing rules.

It seems a little too casual to leave it up to "individual teams" to decide how far to go in their medical screening. That is not to say anyone has been or is being negligent, but there's no reason not to want all 60 CHL teams on the same page. It's like doctors from different regions of one province sharing information and know-how. And as last week showed, everyone hurts when something like this happens.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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