Unique Technology Helps Former Humboldt Bronco Rehabilitate and Get Back in Hockey | The Canadian News

Layne Matechuk just wants to play hockey, and a unique piece of technology is helping him move toward that goal.

It’s been more than three years since Matechuk, a former Humboldt Broncos defender, suffered a serious brain injury in the tragic bus accident that killed 16 people on his team. He and his family have spent countless hours recovering, but parts of his former life remain out of reach.

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Injured Humboldt Bronco works to overcome brain injury

They hope that an immersive neuro-rehabilitation program in Surrey, BC, can help the 21-year-old return to the sport he loves.

“Layne’s goal is to be able to play recreational hockey or some kind of hockey one day,” said his father, Kevin Matechuk. “Some days we think it will never be possible and then you see him on the ice and you see his improvements and you think ‘Yeah, maybe he can do what he loves the most one day.’ It’s really encouraging for us. “

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Matechuk and his parents recently traveled from their home in Colonsay, Sask., 70 miles east of Saskatoon, to BC to work with physicians, kinesiologists and physical therapists at the Surrey Neuroplasticity Clinic. For two and a half weeks, he has participated in physical rehabilitation sessions both on and off the ice while wearing a device known as a Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator, or PoNS.

“We basically put a stimulating plate on his tongue and that actually stimulates his brain through hidden pathways to his brain,” said Dr. Ryan D’Arcy, a neuroscientist at HealthTech Connex, who works with the Matechuks. “Your tongue has nerves that go to the center of your brain and that allows us to activate all kinds of neurological circuits, combine that with rehabilitation and regain lost skills.”

The technology has been used to help people living with multiple sclerosis, the effects of stroke, Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder regain a variety of functions, D’Arcy said.

“The good thing about this is that it is not a drug, it is not surgery,” he said. “It is completely non-invasive and yet unlocks your brain’s potential to recover when combined with a very focused and intensive rehabilitation program.”

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Humboldt Broncos player Layne Matechuk skates for the first time since accident

Matechuk wore the PoNS device on Thursday as he took firm, deliberate steps around the ice. A piece that resembles a clunky but modern-looking earphone was placed around his neck with a cord attached to a small, flat device in his mouth.

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Between drills, the former junior hockey player and his coach examined the grooves left by his skates in the ice, noting how the circles became narrower and narrower as the drill progressed.

Those improvements feel good, Matechuk said.

“I feel like I’m getting back to the way I used to play hockey,” he said with a smile that showed off his braces.

Matechuk has noticed improvements in his walking, skating, speaking, and interactions with other people during his time in BC. However, his favorite part of the show has been the hours he spends on the track.

“It feels so good,” he said, noting that he played hockey from the age of three until he was 18. “So I really like getting back on the ice.”

Matechuk’s parents have also noticed changes. Kevin Matechuk said his son’s limp is less noticeable than when they arrived in BC, and on the ice, he drags his right leg less than before.

“They are small but big things,” Kevin said.

“His frame of mind is definitely in a better place. From the way he was walking before, it actually took him a lot more energy to walk that way. So it will take less energy for you to walk. ? So the long-term effects should be huge. “

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The Matechuks are preparing to return to Saskatchewan, where Layne will continue to use the PoNS device while completing the 12-week program that his therapists have created. You will have regular check-ins to monitor your progress and provide motivation before returning to BC for another in-person session.

“It will be really nice to go back and see where it started and where it is,” Kevin said.

The experience has already been indescribable for the family, he added.

“All parents want the best for their children,” he said. “And with Layne’s injury, to be able to see him continue to progress when at times we were told that he was not going to be able to do things in his life and now we see him doing it, it is really comforting for us.”

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