Ontario will set guidelines to ensure children are taken out of a game if a concussion is suspected, after a bill named for a 17-year-old girl who died from rugby injuries passed Tuesday with rare all-party support.
The legislation establishes a committee to implement the recommendations that came out of the coroner’s inquest into Rowan Stringer’s death within a year.
Rowan died in 2013 from second impact syndrome after multiple concussions and during the coroner’s inquest her family learned that before she died she had actually Googled concussion.
Rowan’s Law was jointly introduced by Progressive Conservative, NDP and Liberal members, who said the legislation was the first of its kind in Canada. They all thanked the Stringer family for their relentless advocacy in their daughter’s memory.
Progressive Conservative Lisa MacLeod led the charge on the legislation and had a message Tuesday for young athletes like Rowan.
“If you have a head injury and you’re playing sports – you’re skiing, you’re playing soccer, hockey, ringette, rugby, doesn’t matter – if you’re hurt, you need to tell somebody,” she said, choking up in the legislature.
“You need to tell your parents. You need to tell your coach. You need to tell your teacher and if you won’t take yourself out of play for yourself, you need to take yourself out of play for Rowan.”
The recommendations from the coroner’s inquest include ensuring a child is removed from play if a concussion is suspected and that they not return to action until receiving medical clearance.
They also call on the government to mandate that parents and athletes participate in a pre-season concussion awareness and management session before any “higher risk” youth sports activity. Concussion awareness should also be part of the Ontario curriculum, integrated into science and physical health areas, the coroner’s inquest recommended.
And all school boards in Ontario should adopt the international concussion consensus guidelines on management of concussion in sports, it recommended.
A study last year from Toronto’s York University and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences found that the number of children and youth treated for concussions in both emergency departments and doctors’ offices in Ontario has risen significantly.
Between 2003 and 2011, almost 89,000 pediatric concussions were treated in either an emergency department or a physician’s office. The rate of concussions jumped to 754 from 466 per 100,000 for boys, and to 440 from 208 per 100,000 for girls.