Out of sight, but not out of mind.
Steve Oursov, despite his absence from the Red Deer Rebels roster, is not a forgotten man. The 18-year-old forward remains on the team’s protected list despite the fact he’s still feeling the effects of a concussion he incurred last winter, a brain injury that has hindered his ability to cope with everyday life situations and may even spell the end of his hockey career.
“The doctors are telling me to keep waiting it off and see what happens. Otherwise, they don’t have much to say to me,” said Oursov, when reached at his home in Chilliwack. “I’ve tried to take some medication, but it’s not really helping out. I’m just trying to live a healthy lifestyle and hoping for (the post-concussion symptoms) to go away.”
Even a recent trip to the mall resulted in a high level of discomfort.
“My symptoms are more like dizziness, and I’m so sensitive to light. I was shopping at the mall with my girlfriend and I just had to get out because I could barely see because of the bright lights,” he said. “I couldn’t see and I got dizzy and sweaty. It was brutal.”
So far, he’s received nothing of benefit from the medical community.
“I’ve seen a couple of high-end doctors at UBC and they’re pretty much telling me to start doing little things, like exercising,” he said. “But even exercising just a bit gives me head rushes. Small things like riding the bike for 10 minutes . . . I still get head rushes from that. So I’m definitely not ready to play hockey. I tried going on the ice a couple of times and had to get off because I felt like I was going to fall over.
“It’s pretty frustrating. You can’t really get down on yourself, although it’s hard not to when you can’t play hockey and things aren’t going your way.”
Oursov suffered the concussion when he was struck on the temple during a fight with Saskatoon Blades forward Charles Inglis on Feb. 17 at the Centrium.
“I don’t remember much about the fight, but from watching it on video it was definitely that punch (to the side of the head) that got me, that did all the damage,” he said.
Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin can relate to Oursov’s plight. Wallin’s professional career was ended when he was slew-footed by an opposing player and suffered a concussion just one game into the 2003-04 American Hockey League season.
“I look back now and there are lots of things in about a year and a half span that I just don’t recall,” said Wallin. “It was a terrible experience to go through and I was fortunate that I came out of it fairly well.
“I still have very mild symptoms; it was definitely a life-altering event. But overall I’ve managed to come through it and will be able to lead a normal life. I can’t be a pro athlete again but I can lead a normal life and feel good most days. Hopefully it can be the same for Steve.”
Oursov feels helpless. He’s finished high school but he’s unable to work, often leaving him with nothing but time on his hands.
“It depends on how I feel when I wake up,” he said. “I’ll know if I can actually go out and do something or if I just have to rest. In that case, I make sure I eat well and just wait for the feeling to go away. It’s crazy.”
What is extra frustrating for Oursov is that he has absolutely no idea of when — or even if — he’ll be able to pull on a Rebels jersey again.
“It’s hard to say because a doctor can’t just tell me ‘you’ll be ready to play in a couple of months’. Doctors have been telling me that there are guys who have had five concussions and are still playing, but also guys that have been hit in the head and had just a minor concussion and can never play again. Everyone’s brain is different, so you just never know.”
Based on feedback he received from none other than NHL concussion expert Dr. Karen Johnston, Wallin concurred.
“All concussions are different and they effect people in different ways. There’s still so much that is unknown about the injury,” he said.
For now, Oursov is concentrating on regaining his health.
“Hockey is really important to me, but the main focus right now is to get healthy again because I definitely don’t want to live like this the rest of my life,” he said. “I really am limited in what I can do. My main goal to get back into a good lifestyle and maybe I can start playing hockey again soon.”
Oursov keeps tabs on the Rebels on a regular basis.
“I’m looking on the website all the time and talking to the guys by e-mail and over the phone,” he said. “I miss it a lot, every single day. I’m always thinking about the team.”