Long road back to normal for Brad Yetman

Kenn Oliver koliver@thetelegram.com
Published on February 18, 2012

These days, Brad Yetman is happy to say he's free of any and all concussion symptoms.

With no headaches, no bouts of nausea, and no sensitivity to light and noise - among other symptoms experienced by concussed athletes - Yetman's been able to return the life of a normal 21-year-old.

He's attending university, working on campus, coaching a major midget hockey team and even playing non-contact hockey.

But the symptoms and an interruption to a future he's trying to build for himself are never far from his mind.

"It's something that's definitely on my mind," Yetman says of setting off the symptoms from one of the two concussions he suffered while playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. "If I'm walking into a room that has a low ceiling, my first reaction is to get down as low as possible to avoid hitting my head.

"I was in my office and I got up from under the desk quickly and slightly bumped by head. Even then, I had to sit down and relax for a couple of minutes to get myself sorted out."

Yetman suffered the first of his three concussions towards the end of his rookie season with the Shawinigan Cataractes. After taking the rest of the season off and spending a summer rehabilitating, he returned to the team in the fall of 2008 and almost immediately began experiencing symptoms that persisted all season. He was forced to miss the bulk of his NHL draft-eligible year.

In the off-season, the defenceman, who had been dealt to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies late in the previous season, gave himself ample time to recover and completed training camp without any reoccurring symptoms. Twenty games into the 2009-10 season, he fell head first into the boards and suffered his second severe concussion.

Having learned his lesson, Yetman followed the same recovery process that summer as he prepared to join the Prince Edward Island Rocket for the 2010-11 campaign. But he took it a step further by consulting with Memorial University sports psychologist Bas Kavanagh.

"He helped me with getting over the phobia of getting hurt again by giving me ways to prepare myself mentally for a game.

"That ultimately resulted in me going to P.E.I. I found a way to deal with it and push through."

When he was acquired by the Rocket, Yetman underwent a neuron-psychology exam to test his cognitive function and memory, which he passed. In two more follow up tests, Yetman continued to show significant improvement.

But regardless of what his body and heart were telling him, Yetman's head wouldn't permit him to play. He appeared in 18 games before pulling the plug on yet another season.

"Where I was so prone to head injuries, all it took was for me to hit another player and the symptoms would come again. The nausea, headaches, balance issues, concentration issues ... everything everyone hears about with concussions would happen right away."

The injury was beginning to take a toll, physically and mentally.

"To know that it happened after I worked so hard to get back into the lineup, and for it to happen on something so innocent, it was heartbreaking."

With another season written off, Yetman returned home. With one year of major junior eligibility remaining, the Mount Pearl native was left with a choice: spend another summer trying to become symptom free, and risk another concussion with a return, or call it quits. Permanently.

"When I decided to give up playing, (Kavanagh) helped me think about the pros and cons and make certain this is what I wanted to do. He also helped me find ways to tell the team and my parents."

A return to competitive hockey will likely never happen for Yetman. And while he is disappointed that his serious playing days are behind him, his own experiences have inspired him to enter the psychology field with plans to study sports psychology down the road.

When he's not at the books, Yetman turns his attention to helping other young local hockey players make the jump to the next level.

"I've been blessed and lucky with the hockey opportunities I've had, and now I get to share my experience with upcoming players through coaching," explains Yetman, who serves as an assistant coach with the St. John's Maple Leafs of the provincial major midget league.

"For me it's not just staying in the game, it's passing on what I know."

koliver@thetelegram.com Twitter@telykenn



The Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League playoffs open this weekend in the metro region.

The top-seeded St. John's Pennecon Privateers welcome the fourth-seeded Central IcePak to the Goulds Arena for the first two games of their best-of-seven semifinal. Game 1 goes 8:30 tonight, with Game 2 to follow Sunday at 10 a.m.

The series moves to Lewisporte next weekend for Games 3, 4 and, if necessary 5.

In the other semifinal, the St. John's Maple Leafs, second overall in the regular season, play host to the Western Kings at Capital Hyundai Arena (Prince of Wales Arena). The teams open tonight at 8:30 p.m. and play Game 2 on Sunday morning at 11 o'clock.

The teams travel to Corner Brook to play Games 3, 4 and if necessary, 5 at the Pepsi Centre's Kinsmen Arena next weekend.

Should either series go beyond Game 5, they will return to St. John's for Games 6 and 7.