By Darren Lum
Later this month Ontario is expected to take the lead with concussion legislation in Canada following the death of a 17-year-old teenage girl days after being rendered unconscious while playing rugby.
A coroner’s inquest revealed she had three concussions in less than week before her death in 2013.
There are 49 recommendations including the creation of the act to be applied to all youth sport in Ontario pertaining to head injuries as a result of the inquest.
Named for the teen Rowan Stringer Rowan’s Law Act was presented by PC MPP Lisa MacLeod and has received sponsorship from all political parties.
Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott who expects the act to pass when it is voted on at Queen’s Park on Dec. 10 said Stringer’s death was an unfortunate motivator for this act.
“It was the lightning rod to say ‘wow this is occuring. It is more prevalent than we thought and how do we make more people aware of concussion signs and symptoms and then how do we involve school boards? We make it mandatory” she said.
The act is based upon the international concussion guidelines established in Switzerland.
It will provide education to not only the coaches but also the athletes and parents. Also the act will provide a framework regarding an athlete’s return. Medical clearance will be required and the adherence to strategies for athletes when it comes to return to learn and return to play.
Locally schools under the Trillium Lakelands District School Board have been operating with Concussions-Return to Learn Return to Play policy and procedures since 2014. It applies to physical education playground time or school-based sports activities. There are administrative procedures outlining roles and responsibilities for senior administration the school’s principal teachers and support staff coaches and physical education teachers parents/guardians and students related to awareness action and understanding.
The 14-page policy and procedures document is a comprehensive how-to-guide for senior administration principals teachers coaches parents guardians and students.
Scott said the all-party support particularly in light of Rowan’s death made sense because concussions are an important issue for everyone. It has grabbed the headlines even with professional sports such as the National Hockey League and the National Football League.
She said education for all the stakeholders is key to the act.
Scott said with greater research into the effects of repetitive concussions suffered by one individual is revealing more and more than what has been known before Scott said.
Her niece suffered through concussions from competing as a show jumper. Neither she nor the family realized there was a connection to concussions until a sports doctor helped with a diagnosis.
“My niece had to start her first year of university [with concussion symptoms]. She began to wonder [what’s with my] concentration? She can’t get words out. She at 17 … was like what’s happening to me? When you look back into the history of how many times she has hit her head you deduce. The situation is that it is hard to get into [see] specialists also” she said.
Education on the topic is creating greater awareness of the danger which is important for greater safety.
Scott’s niece has since become a case study and is part of research being conducted in Toronto.
“In general I think it occurs more often than we think” she said.