All sports carry risks but Rowan’s Law will help minimize them for Ontario youth.
The recent death of Mohammed Ali and the recent passing of Rowan’s Law, on June 8th, are events that have come together in my mind as poignant reminders of the dangers of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and concussion.
I assume that Mohammed Ali, with his repeat TBI and the resulting Parkinson’s Disease he battled, requires no introduction. If you’re not familiar with Rowan’s Law, and the girl who inspired it, I’ve blogged about it before, but here’s a little background to get you caught up:
Who Was Rowan?
Rowan Stringer was 17 years old when she died as a result of a second impact injury, or Second Impact Syndrome. This kind of head injury is basically a concussion on top of an existing, unresolved concussion. Rowan had been playing high school rugby for a while when in May 2013, she sustained two concussions in a one week period, including during an all day tournament. She was tackled again during her May 8th match and her head took the full force of the impact. She was rushed to hospital unconscious. Rowan never woke up.
What Is Rowan’s Law And How Did It Come About?
Dr. Charles Tator, a Toronto neuroscientist, initiated the idea of an inquest into Rowan’s death, in the aim of preventing these kinds of tragedies in the future. The inquest began in May 2015 and, of the forty-nine recommendations handed down by the inquest jury, the first was that the Ontario government should establish Rowan’s Law:
“…an Act governing all youth sport, both school-based and non-school based. The Act should recognize the importance of four criteria in protecting children and youth:
- Providing education on sport-related concussions to athletes (youth), coaches and parents;
- Removing a child or youth athlete from play if a concussion is suspected;
- Ensuring the child or youth does not return to play until he or she has received medical clearance; and
- Ensuring appropriate return to learn and return to play strategies are in place.” (source)
MPP Lisa MacLeod, the representative for Nepean-Carleton, which was Rowan’s riding, worked with the Stringer family and others to table this law. It was intended to govern the management of youth sports, both in and out of school, and concussions.
June 7th, 2016, it passed the third reading of the house, with all party support. A committee will be established to put the forty-nine recommendations in place to protect kids and families from ever having to live through the nightmare of child succumbing to a preventable death.
What Does Rowan’s Law Mean?
Much of the greater good of Rowan’s Law is awareness. Had Rowan, and those around her like friends and family, been more aware of the symptoms and effects of concussion, she might have reacted differently to the headaches she was experiencing after the first concussion.
While professional sports have had rules and regulations surrounding the recognition and management of head injury and concussion for a few years, youth sports in Ontario had no similar regulations. Instead, it was a hodge podge of local, provincial and national guidelines of various sporting bodies, if there were any guidelines at all. Add to that a culture of ‘walking it off’ that permeates sports teams, where scholarships and even friendships can be on the line, many kids won’t admit to feeling symptoms of concussion.
With consistently applied regulations and policies, across school boards and sports groups, kids would be protected: there would be no worry about ‘missing out’ because the rules would be applied uniformly and without judgement.
Regulations to put in place, according to the inquest report:
- Medical clearance of all concussed athletes before they return to play.
- Mandatory concussion education for all young athletes, parents and coaches.
- The immediate removal of a young athlete from play if a concussion is suspected.
- Strict adherence to return-to-learn and return-to-play protocols for youth athletes with concussions (source)
What Are TBI And Concussion?
Concussion is quite simply a head injury where the brain, which sits in fluid, hits the side of your skull, when impacted. If the impact is severe enough, the brain can be damaged by it.
There is no treatment that will fully eliminate the effects of traumatic brain injury. It can only be prevented.
Symptoms range from mild headaches, dizziness and nausea to changes in personality. With such vague symptoms, it can be hard to diagnose a concussion and even with CT scans and MRIs, they aren’t always obvious.
High impact sports aren’t the only way you can sustain a concussion. Slip and fall injuries or other accidents where you head sustains an impact to a solid surface, including a car crash, are other ways you can end up with a concussion.
That’s why it’s critical that if you hit your head during any kind of incident, that you be checked out immediately by a doctor and talk to a personal injury lawyer.
While a full recovery is the most likely result, it’s best to allow a lawyer to shadow your case, in the event that it worsens and you experience post-concussion syndrome or other effects, down the road.
If you’re not sure about a recent accident or injury, give me a call and we can talk about your case.