CALGARY - A new shop for skiing headgear and eyewear at Canada Olympic Park hopes to become a leader in sport safety while offering the look and feel of a trendy Apple store.
WinSport Canada unveiled its Impact Lab on Friday. It's a retail facility that offers expertise in proper fitting helmets and goggles.
Like Apple stores, it is interactive. Visitors, most of whom are coming off the park's adjacent ski hill, can test themselves in the store to see if they have been concussed.
WinSport Canada will also be opening a similar lab for hockey and teeth as part of its new 80,000-square-foot high performance facility that is scheduled to open in Calgary in the spring. The complex will be home to Hockey Canada.
"You'll see a very similar design for this and very similar principles behind it in our hockey arenas come April or May," said Winsport president and chief executive officer Dan O'Neill.
O'Neill came up with the idea for the lab and specifically wanted the Apple store look.
Once the high performance facility is open, skiers/boarders who are suspected of suffering a concussion will be directed to a medical clinic that will be staffed by six doctors.
O'Neill is urging parents to have their children take a baseline test before heading to the hill in order to have a comparison chart in case they suffer a fall.
"In three or four months we will have a whole concussion testing area," O'Neill said. "This is Step 1.
"Then, we'll be able to make sure before the kids leave (the hill) — or an athlete comes back to Canada from overseas with an injury — we get them into the process."
The new facility will have 15,000 square feet of science labs, a team of surgeons and a team of physiotherapists. It will also host a permanent sports high school. Construction on the school will begin with the next 12 months.
"We have thousands of people coming to watch and play hockey every week and we want give them good information," said WinSport Canada's vice-president of sport, Dr. Stephen Norris, who was a consultant with Canada's Own The Podium program between 2005 and 2010.
The eye-protection centre has a high-velocity impact test and high-mass impact test.
Sean Maw, a Calgary researcher who specializes in injury protection systems such as crash barriers and helmets, says new technology is improving a helmet's ability to reduce prevalence and severity of concussions.
"Helmet design is experiencing sort of a renaissance," said Maw, a associate professor of engineering at Mount Royal University.
"The standards for helmets are also beginning to change. There's still plenty of work to do there. Helmets were never designed to prevent concussions, which for many people is a big surprise."
Maw was one of the designers of the crash protection system for short and long track speed skating at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Because ski culture puts a lot of emphasis on fashion, O'Neill said staff regularly deal with visitors who habitually put style over protection. The lab offers both, he said.
"People are worried about the colour combination with their clothing." he said. "That's the reality."