Healthy Living in the North

Get Your Game On!


In the jersey is my youngest son, who loves soccer

You know what; I’m pretty excited for the last two weeks of September.  Not only is Northern Health’s Great Northern Scavenger Hunt taking place, but the world cup of hockey  is taking place.  While I won’t be watching every game, I’m looking forward to cheering on team Canada.  If team Canada is knocked out, then I’ll cheer for team Finland, as I have family over there.

Now, you might be wondering why I brought up watching the world cup of hockey when Northern Health is encouraging people to step away from the screen.  To be honest it’s about limiting screen time, not eliminating it all together.

Organized sports like hockey, soccer, baseball, volleyball and basketball not only promote physical activity, but also sportsmanship, teamwork and often community involvement.   The Great Northern Scavenger Hunt is about plugging into your community and I’d like to point out that team sports are a great way to plug into your community.   Take some time to find out what leagues and clubs are in your community.

However, competitive or organized team sports may not be for everyone.  Team sports can be expensive, although there is help available for families.  The commitment in terms of time can be high and sometimes travel is required.  Not everyone enjoys the competition of team sports, and some may feel that their skill level isn’t good enough to join.

Organized competitive team sports just aren’t what some people want to do.  However, there are other ways to get involved in sports and “plug in.”

  • If team sports aren’t your thing, then what about sports that are individual in nature. Sports such as martial arts, speed or figure skating, tennis, badminton, cycling or skiing can provide challenge without being part of a team.
  • If the competitive nature of some sports leagues doesn’t appeal to you, consider joining a recreational league. Check out your community leisure services schedule and see what’s there.  You never know what might peak your interest.  Or get a bunch of friends together and have an informal game; chances are you’ll have fun and a few laughs at the end of it.
  • If you want to take part in a sport, but aren’t confident in your skill level, then look for a beginner league. I didn’t start playing ice hockey until later in life and I started out in an adult beginner’s league. It turned out to be one of the best experiences I ever had.  Never think you’re too old to start playing a sport either.  However, if you haven’t been active for a while, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor first and remember to start out slowly.
  • If your kids are involved in sports, remember that it should be about having fun, making friends and learning about teamwork. While skill development is important, placing too much pressure on kids can result in the game becoming less enjoyable or even requests to quit the team.

In the Gi is my oldest son, who takes part in jujitsu

The great thing about sports is that everyone can take part in some way or another.  It doesn’t matter what age or gender you are, or what your skill level is, you can find a way to participate.   Getting children involved in sport is a great way to build healthy lifestyles.

Now let’s cheer on team Canada.  Better yet, let’s put on our team Canada jerseys and play some road hockey.  Just remember to get off the road when someone yells “CAR!!”

Consider answering some of the sports-related questions (along with many others!) in the Great Northern Scavenger Hunt! This contest gets you out and thinking about your community’s healthy activities and options – and there are great prizes to be won. Contest Closes October 02.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.


Heads up! Concussions matter!

Parent and child wearing helmets on a ski hill.

Concussions matter! From February 24 – March 1, take the free online training at to better understand concussion prevention and management and for your chance to win a $50 gift card.

Sidney Crosby, Natasha Richardson, the National Football League, Hockey Canada. They all conjure up stories of individual struggles and organizational responses to concussions. With the Canada Winter Games entering their second week in Prince George and northern B.C., we wanted to make the most of the light shining on sports and athletes to talk about concussion awareness and education for all, not just extreme sport athletes.

The Canada Winter Games are here for two weeks, but concussions happen in our communities every day! The question is: how big of an issue are concussions in the north? Injury stats on concussion are rather difficult to gather as historically, concussions have been a very under-reported injury or they’ve been recorded under a number of different categories. What we do know is that:

  • In 2010, $2.4 million was spent on hospitalizations for concussion in B.C.
  • Northern Health has the highest rate of hospitalization for brain injury, other head injury, and concussions of all the health regions in B.C.
  • 1 in 5 youth in northern B.C. reported experiencing a concussion in the past year; many also report not seeking medical help to diagnose, treat and manage their concussion to a full recovery.
  • Up to 60% of all concussion visits were males.
  • 40% of concussion cases seen in emergency departments are for children ages 0-19, with the highest rate for boys 10-14 years old. Most of these cases came from a sport-related injury.

In response to this injury burden, and with the opportunity to create a health legacy from the Canada Winter Games, we’ve created Concussions matter! This concussion awareness, management and prevention campaign was designed to reach Northern Health staff and communities across the north as a health legacy to Canada Winter Games. The campaign has received generous support from the Concussion Awareness Training Tool and, allowing us to use and co-brand some great tools to promote and distribute across the region.

From February 24th to March 1st, we’ll be sharing a lot of concussion information and links to the CATT online training course here, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Take the free online CATT training and comment “I completed the CATT” on the Northern Health Facebook page and you can be entered to win a $50 gift card! Please help us spread the word about concussion awareness and the tools to support the management and prevention!

Concussions matter! Learn more about concussion management and prevention at

Contest rules:

  1. Only residents living in the Northern Health region can qualify to win (but we encourage everyone to take the free CATT online training course!). Not sure if you are in our region? View the map.
  2. The contesting and prizing is administered by Northern Health. Facebook is in no way responsible for contesting or prizing.
  3. Participants are entered by taking the free online CATT course and commenting “I completed the CATT” below the Facebook post relating to the contest on the Northern Health Facebook Page.
  4. No maximum entries per person. A maximum of one entry is earned by completing the CATT and commenting appropriately. Extra entries can be earned by tagging a friend.
  5. Comments deemed abusive, offensive or derogatory will be automatically disqualified.
  6. One prize will be given away. A gift card valued at $50 will be awarded.
  7. Winner will be contacted via email or social media platform.
  8. Gift card will be awarded by random draw.
  9. Gift card to be used to encourage healthy living. To ensure it is, Regional Injury Prevention Coordinators will work with the winners to determine what the gift card will be for.
  10. Northern Health reserves final approval of winning entry and gift card.
  11. Contestants under the age of 18 must have parent or guardian permission to enter.
  12. Announced prize winner is final.
  13. Entering the contest does not guarantee that you will win a prize.
  14. Northern Health employees are eligible to enter the contest and win, but will not be granted preferential treatment.
  15. Northern Health has 60 days from the time the contest closes (March 1, 2015, 11:59PM PST) to issue prize.
Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie grew up in rural Newfoundland and moved to B.C. in 2003. After graduating from the nursing program at Thompson Rivers University in 2007 she moved to Prince George to start her career. She has a passion for population and public health and is the Regional Lead for Sexual and Reproductive Health. After falling in love with the north she purchased a rural property and began to build her hobby farm and family. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found happily doing something outside on her farm with her family.


Keep Your Breath

A man rides a bike

Smoking will be detrimental to your physical performance.

I have to admit, it’s been a great summer. The decent weather has let me ride my bike to work often and encouraged me to work towards my goal of running five kilometers. With all this exercise, I’m feeling great.

But it’s not going to last forever, the decent weather that is. When it’s cold and wet, the last thing I want to do is go for a run or hop on my bike. Fortunately for me, hockey is just around the corner. For others, sports such as basketball, racquetball, squash, volleyball, indoor badminton and floor hockey may be appealing ways to keep active over the winter.

Typically, when you think of these activities, you don’t think of smoking, but how often do you see someone having a smoke outside the arena or recreation center? Some of the guys I’ve played hockey with have told me that a smoke before the game “picks them up” and “helps them focus.” However, smoking is not going to help your game in the end.

A 2013 study of female university athletes looked at the effect of smoking on athletic performance. In this study, 12 smokers and 21 non-smokers were asked to perform stress tests and six shuttle run tests to determine the impacts of smoking on aerobic capacity and anaerobic capacity.* What the researchers found was:

  • During shuttle runs four to six, the smokers’ average power decreased significantly.
  • Non-smokers were able to take in and use more oxygen during intense exercise.
  • The smoking group was less capable of dealing with fatigue.
  • Smoking impaired the athletes’ ability to recover after high intensity exercise.

Another study that examined the effect of smoking on the cardiovascular system noted a 10% decrease in the time smokers could exercise before becoming exhausted. This was attributed to a lack of available oxygen to the muscles.

Sports like hockey, basketball and racquetball all require short, intense bursts of speed and/or power that are anaerobic in nature. As the studies show, smoking has a negative impact on our body’s ability to absorb and use oxygen. This results in a loss of power, endurance, and a decreased ability to recover from intense activity.

If you have a quick smoke before the game, it’s going to catch up with you. In the second or third period, you’ll be gasping for air on the bench between shifts and lagging behind the play when you’re on the ice. That awe-inspiring, highlight reel move is going to be harder to pull off when the power in your legs is used up in the first half of the game.

Is that bit of a pick-up worth a weak finish? I don’t think so.

If you or some you know wants to quit using tobacco, they can receive free counselling and free nicotine replacement products through provincial programs.

*Anaerobic exercises are done with maximum intensity for short bursts (i.e. sprinting) where the energy requirement of the body exceeds that provided by breathing, and therefore, the body is forced to work without oxygen.  Aerobic exercises are the ones where oxygen is used to produce energy in order to fuel the body for a prolonged activity (i.e., marathon running)

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.


Prince George Cougars trainer talks concussions

Canada's game - a risky one.

Canada’s game – a game that sees many headlines for its dangers.

The overarching theme of my youth was sports: I played baseball, hockey, tennis, volleyball, basketball and golf. Those activities were accompanied by a lot of great friends, a competitiveness that helps me succeed to this day, and, unfortunately, injuries. There are a couple injuries that stand out more than others, but the one that always comes to mind when I think about my injuries is the first time I was concussed.

I was playing midget hockey in Port Moody, where I grew up. As I tried to fish the puck out from between my skates, a taller player skated past me, landing a hefty elbow to my jaw. Despite the fact that I was wearing a cage, I dropped. This happened around 1997, when the mentality of head injuries was changing from “you just got your bell rung” to the concussion culture we know today. I vividly recall opening my eyes, seeing green spots and thinking to myself, “Oh, so this is a concussion.” Luckily for me, it wasn’t significant and the recovery time was only a week.

Today, most people have either had a concussion or have seen a highlight of someone who’s suffered one. For instance, Sidney Crosby getting blindsided in the Winter Classic was played over and over again as his highly anticipated return from the resulting concussion drew near. Because sport and concussion is so closely linked, I spoke with Ramandeep “Chico” Dhanjal, Head Trainer with the Prince George Cougars, to discuss concussions and Canada’s game.

Chico, are they any exercises a person can do to limit their chances of suffering a concussion?

There are no exercises that can prevent you from getting a concussion.

What hockey-related suggestions would you give a person to help avoid concussions?

Be aware of your setting and know where you are on the ice – are you close to the boards or in open ice? Also, make sure that you are properly fitted with equipment like helmets and mouth guards.

What tests do you do to determine if a player is concussed?                                       

A player must do a baseline online concussion test every year at the beginning of the season. If a player is hurt during a game or practice we use the new sport concussion testing called the SCAT3. If a player shows any symptoms of having a concussion that are revealed on the test then he is subject to rest until symptom free.

Are you noticing a changing culture in hockey around playing with a concussion?

There is certainly a change. The game has changed so much; players are getting bigger, faster, and stronger. But we are also seeing symptoms sooner and faster. Players are getting smarter now in recognizing that if they are not feeling like their normal self and have symptoms to let someone know sooner than later.

What risks does a player subject themselves to by playing with a concussion?

The major risk of playing with a concussion is having yourself injured for a longer period of time. A concussion can slow down your reaction time, thinking and awareness of your surroundings on the ice, putting yourself at danger and risk of further injuring yourself. Also, your recovery time can be increased by playing with a concussion and you will be out for a longer period of time.

For more information on concussions, please visit Northern Health’s concussion page.

You can also find more hockey-related concussion information at Hockey Canada.

And don’t forget to show us how you’re preventing concussions by entering our Falls Across the Ages page (Editor’s note: the contest is now closed).


Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.


Man up: Learning to take our own advice

Steve and his family

Steve, pictured here with his wife Shelley and children Michael and Alyson, was a torch bearer for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Given my recent entry into my forties, I like to think that 42 is the new 22. Well when 22 meets 42 on the soccer field, I’m not so sure. While I won’t go into the details of the clearly savage slide tackle targeted at me (in my opinion, anyway), I can tell you about what happened after. I remember people around me asking, “Are you hurt or are you injured?” – meaning if I merely “hurt,” then man up and get back out there. I didn’t go back in the game, but I did take two aspirin and head home, and not straight to the emergency room (which I know now was the wrong choice). But I mean, it was just a sprain, right?

So off to work on Monday. Much to my surprise, the interesting two-step stride I took down the hall to my office was not met with weekend warrior adulation, but rather with raised eyebrows and the repeated question of “why haven’t you gotten it checked out yet?”  So realizing the audience here was not my team, off I went, 24 hours later, to get the ankle checked.

Through our Northern Health men’s health consultations last fall, we learned that men in the north are raised in a culture where “living hard” is normalized from an early age. It’s ingrained in us to be tough and macho, and unfortunately this is leading to unnecessary illness, disease and early deaths in northern men. So yes, I should know better to take care of my body and my health.

But of course my self-diagnosis was just a sprain, and I figured I’d be back on my feet in no time. Well the doc entered the room, post X-ray, with a grin, and said, “You’ve done this before haven’t you?” I smiled a bit, telling him, “Yeah, both ankles, many times. Lots of sprains over the years, nothing ice and heat can’t take care of.” He nodded and told me that’s what he thought because it’s not a normal ankle anymore. Please note the smile disappeared from my face at this point.

He continued to tell me that there is evidence of two past fractures, numerous bone chips and lots of previous ligament and tendon damage in my ankle. In fact, the x-ray was hard to read because of all the junk floating around in there. He did agree with me though – it was a definite sprain this time!

Perhaps I should have taken the advice of the very organization I work for. I should’ve manned up and had some of those past ‘sprains’ checked out. Apparently I wasn’t merely hurt but I was truly injured….oops.

Have you ever had a moment of clarity when you realized you should “man up?”


Steve Raper

About Steve Raper

Steve is the Chief of External Relations and Communications for Northern Health, where he leads marketing, communications, web and media relations activities. He has a business diploma from the College of New Caledonia, a BA from the University of Northern BC and a master’s degree in business administration from Royal Roads University. In his spare time, Steve volunteers on a number of boards, including Canadian Blood Services, Pacific Sport Northern BC and the Prince George Youth Soccer Association. To stay active, he enjoys camping, and playing soccer and hockey.


Recovering from an injury? Slow and steady wins this race

Jonathon with Jay Feaster

Jonathon, with his crutches, posing with Jay Feaster, Calgary Flames general manager.

Ever had an injury that prevented you from participating in the activities you love? I’ve always loved to play team sports such as soccer, hockey, ultimate Frisbee, curling, and other activities including hiking, kayaking, and golf. Unfortunately, four years ago I hurt my knee playing soccer and the idea that I wouldn’t be able to do any of those while I recovered was more painful than the injury itself.

In December 2010 and July 2011 I went in for surgeries to repair my knee. The first surgery was to repair the meniscus, and the second was to repair my Anterior Crucial Ligament (ACL). From the time that I hurt my knee, to the clearance from the doctor that my knee was good for most activities again earlier this month, it was very hard for me to not be very active.

With any type of injury, it is critical to take care of yourself and ensure you get the proper treatment you need to heal. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Immediately after my injury I went into the doctor, but being young and impatient, I made the impulse decision to play ball hockey anyway. Of course, this further damaged my knee and left me in a great deal of pain. After awhile, I finally realized I needed to take care of myself and I went back to the doctor to start on the path to recovery.

Prior to the injury I didn’t enjoy spending time at the gym, electing to get my physical exercise in other ways. But once I started going to the gym to do strengthening exercises for my knee, I found that being in a controlled environment like that helped me to ensure I wasn’t overworking my knee and potentially re-injuring it. Over time I have found activities at the gym that I enjoy and will continue to do even though I can now return to things like golf and hockey.

All in all, making sure to take care of myself after the surgeries meant being able to eventually return to the things I love. I learned that there’s no point in trying to be manly and walk off injuries.

My advice to anyone who has hurt themselves, especially men playing sports, is to man up and make sure to take care of your injury. For more information on men’s health, preventing and recovering from injuries, visit

Jonathon Dyck

About Jonathon Dyck

Jonathon is a communications officer at Northern Health. Originally from Airdrie, Alberta, Jonathon has a broadcasting diploma from Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alberta, and a BA with a major in communications from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. Jonathon enjoys golf, hockey, curling, hiking, biking, and canoeing. He is also an avid sports fan and attends as many sporting events as humanly possible, including hockey, soccer, baseball, football, rugby, basketball, and lacrosse. (Jonathon no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)