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Score One For Kids Who Play Sports: Rowan’s Law Passed

Rowan’s Law had its start in the USA.

In 2009, Washington State passed a law called “Lystedt Law”, which required the mandatory removal of a youth from a game—regardless of the sport—where concussion was suspected, as well as compulsory education for coaches, players, teachers and parents.

This was on the heels of the near-fatal brain injury sustained by Zackary Lystedt, while playing high school football with a concussion that he had suffered earlier in the same game. Since then, all 50 states have put in place concussion laws.

No Canadian provinces or territories had followed suit. Until now.

Rowan’s Law Passes Third Reading In The Ontario Legislature

On March 6, 2018, Rowan’s Law passed the third and final reading in the legislature. I’ve written a couple of times on Rowan’s Law, but here is a summary of how it came to be and what it represents:

Rowan Stringer, captain of her high school rugby team, played in a tournament in May 2013. She was hit twice early in the tournament and suspected a concussion—we know this because she texted as much to friends—but said nothing to her coach or parents.

Was that because people around her couldn’t see the signs of concussion or didn’t know what they were?

Was it because there is a culture of ‘shaking it off’ and not letting the team down, in many amateur sports organizations?

Whatever the reasons that she didn’t share the information, a third tackle on May 8th resulted in her losing consciousness. She never woke up.

Enter Dr. Charles Tator, a neurologist who started the push for an inquest into Rowan’s death. In his words:  (Source)

“Reports of her death reached me not long after she sustained her fatal brain injury, and they rattled my temporal lobes. It did not make any sense. The 911 call from the field was expeditiously answered. Emergency personnel arrived on the scene within minutes to provide resuscitation and transport to Ottawa’s Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, where a highly skilled team immediately sprung into action. Despite modern neurosurgical care, promptly administered by a team of experts, Ms. Stringer could not be saved. How was this possible?”

Misunderstood, even by health professionals, one fact about concussion stands out: second-impact syndrome, which is the effect on the brain when a second concussion occurs very soon after a first, in most known cases, results in death.

Overwhelmingly, that has meant the death of young athletes. While first-impact concussions aren’t preventable—they’re a fact of life in any contact sport—second-impact concussions are. Thanks to Rowan’s Law, there is action at the end of the long inquiry and the 49 recommendations that resulted.

The first and most relevant of the recommendations was:

“That the Government of Ontario adopt an act governing all youth sport, both school-based and non-school based, and that the act should recognize the importance of four criteria in protecting children and youth:

  1. Providing education on sport-related concussions to athletes, coaches and parents.
  2. Removing a child or youth athlete from play if a concussion is suspected.
  3. Ensuring the child or youth does not return to play until he or she has received medical clearance.
  4. Ensuring appropriate return to learn and return to play strategies are in place.” (Source)

Rowan’s Law Act, as it is known, is now the law in Ontario and encompasses all 49 recommendations, including protocols that reflect the first recommendation, above.

As a personal injury lawyer who sees cases of concussion all the time, I hope that the concussion awareness and changes in how they are dealt with in amateur sport in Ontario will filter through to the rest of the country. Well done, Ontario.

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