A young Kentville hockey player returns to the ice after a serious head injury

March 6, 2022. It’s a day that Rylee Bennett only remembers parts of.

She remembers playing in a playoff game in Windsor, Nova Scotia with her Halifax Western Capital U18 teammates. But she doesn’t remember how the game ended for her.

Bennett, who was 16 at the time, fell hard in the boards. His helmet, which broke, took the full impact when his head hit the top of the boards.

“I remember screaming when I got hurt and our coach rushed in, but I don’t remember anything after that because I passed out,” Bennett said in an interview before a practice. team in Bedford.

“I just remember waking up in the hospital and I had no idea what was going on.”

Bennett had to take things very slowly when she returned to the ice after her head injury. (Paul Palmer/CBC)

Bennett had suffered a serious head injury. His brain was bleeding and starting to swell.

The event was horrifying for her teammates and her coach, who happens to be her father.

“Once we understood the severity of the accident, the whole day was a bit of a blur for our family,” Kevin Bennett said. “From leaving the rink to arriving at the hospital and managing all the possibilities that were available to us, it was a very long 24 hours.

Doctors were considering brain surgery, but luckily the swelling around the young hockey player’s brain started to go down. Her first day in the hospital is something she will never forget.

“I was lying on the bed in terrible pain. It was very overwhelming,” said the teenager, who lives in Kentville and is now a Grade 12 student at the Northeast Kings Education Centre.

“Every minute I was just waiting for the doctors to come through the door and tell me if I’m going to need surgery or not and if I could play hockey again, which was a terrifying feeling.”

A slow recovery

Even after recovery, severe head trauma can often have lingering effects. Bennett was told to take things extremely slowly when she was sent home to the Annapolis Valley. She couldn’t go back to school right away, and even the simplest tasks were difficult.

“She still had double vision in one eye so she couldn’t see well and her mobility wasn’t great,” her father said. “She was released to go home to rest and sleep, and the neurologist gave us a long list of things not to do.”

While she was determined to get back on the ice with her team in the fall, she knew rushing was not the way to go.

“At first, I was not allowed to increase my heart rate beyond a certain point,” Bennett said. “Running wasn’t allowed at first – nothing that involved bouncing off my head.”

Bennett, second from left in the front row, says the support of her teammates meant a lot to her after her head injury. (James Pomeroy)

Bennett was skating lightly alone when the Capitals returned to the ice for the start of the 2022-23 season, but she was unable to participate in team drills. She missed the first games of the season, but she gradually picked up her pace in training.

Seven and a half months after her devastating injury, she was finally given the green light to compete in a match.

“It was great because I didn’t feel like it was ever going to happen,” Bennett said. “Honestly, I didn’t think it would be possible with all the emotions I was feeling.”

1st return goal

Bennett said it was very surreal to be back on the ice and playing in a game. She took another step on October 30 when she scored her first goal since returning.

“I can’t put words to what she went through,” Capitals assistant coach Sarah MacDonnell said. “We are so proud of his resilience.”

Bennett’s teammates, who supported her throughout her ordeal, were thrilled to see her back on the ice and in uniform.

“She’s very strong and relentless and never gives up,” said team captain Samantha Taylor. “We’ve definitely backed and supported her along the way.”

Bennett said her team’s support helped her through a very dark phase.

“I don’t know what I would have done if they hadn’t been there for me,” she said. “They just made me feel like I could pull through when there were times when I didn’t feel like I could.”

Catherine J. Martinez