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Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine is serious about bringing increased awareness to the issue of traumatic brain injuries, in particular those that are sports-related. He has spoken publicly about his own experience. Traumatic brain injuries – and how to avoid them – have been in the news constantly for the past several years, notably since some high profile athletes have drawn attention to the consequences. Slowly, professional sports leagues and teams are taking steps to prevent these injuries, and that action trickles down to high school team coaches. Especially dangerous are repeat concussions where athletes are sent back to play too soon after an initial injury and are reinjured. 2

LaFontaine will be the honoree at St. Johnland Nursing Center’s Gala Benefit in September, again focusing on raising awareness. On a recent visit to the Nursing Center’s Head Injury Rehabilitation Unit, he had a chance to meet some young patients who are recovering from serious accidents. Alex was involved in a motor vehicle accident in early 2013 and came to St. Johnland after being in two other rehab facilities. On this day – and with the help of physical therapists and the encouragement of LaFontaine – this patient walked 25’ having not walked at all in eight months of rehab. “Magical medicine,” one of the therapists said, astounded at what Alex had just accomplished. Brandon suffered a traumatic brain injury after a skateboard accident and has been at St. Johnland since last August. Just learning to speak again, he was able to have a short conversation with the hockey legend. Both patients happen to be huge hockey fans and were deeply inspired to continue their recovery knowing what LaFontaine has gone through personally. A number of other fans in the Nursing Center were there to meet him as well.

St. Johnland has sponsored three presentations to local audiences about the dangers of sports-related head injuries in the last few years. Their rehab facility is one of only five NYS certified units in the State and the only one on Long Island and has been open since 1995.

LaFontaine’s own charity, Companions in Courage Foundation, builds interactive play rooms in children’s hospitals across the country and in Canada – using technology to speed the healing. LaFontaine along with Three Monkey’s A recently-announced wine named Pinot Line, is carried at many local high-end restaurants and clubs and at Southdown Liquors, and 100% of the proceeds from sales will be donated to the Foundation. Playing for the New York Islanders, the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers over a career of 15 years, LaFontaine had a total of 468 goals. His ultimate goal off the ice is to see “head” hospitals built to serve the special needs of patients the same way that “heart” hospitals do.

The St. Johnland Gala will be on Friday, September 12th at The Harbor Club at Prime. For more information, please call 631-663-2457.

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