Rowan’s Law: Canada’s first concussion law
A coroner’s inquest into the death of a young athlete from Ottawa, Rowan Stringer, may lead to new laws for sports organizations in Ontario. The law would require sports associations to have a concussion protocol in place in the event a young athlete suffers a head injury.
Rowan was only 17 years of age when she passed away after suffering multiple concussions within a week while playing high school rugby. Between May 3rd, 2013 to May 8th, 2013, Rowan played 5 rugby matches where she sustained 3 head injuries, all of which may have be classified as concussion. However, after the last head injury, she lost consciousness and eventually died 3 days later due to second impact syndrome. Second impact syndrome is a rare condition that results when a second concussion occurs before a previous one has not fully healed, leading to an uncontrolled, severe swelling of the brain.
The coroner’s inquest of her death has produced recommendations for concussion protocols in youth sports across Canada, called “Rowan’s Law.”
In the United States there are already laws in place that dictate the management of youth concussions in organized sports. The U.S. concussion laws stemmed from when a young football player, Zackery Lystedt, who suffered 2 concussions during the same game. He was 13 years old at the time, when he suffered a life threatening brain injury after he returned to action following a second concussive blow.
A big issue with concussion in sports is the percentage of underreporting that goes on from athletes. Several studies have shown that anywhere between 40-50% of concussions suffered by student athletes were never reported to coaches or medical advisors. Some of the reasons that young athletes do not report their symptoms following a head injury is that they don’t want to miss any time from play, they don’t want to let their coaches or teammates down, or they don’t want to look weak. If is for this reason that concussion laws are in place, to protect kids from themselves.
It is known that young brains are more vulnerable to injury and also take longer than adults to heal. This is due in part to the number of “connections” that are being formed during the adolescent years. It is a time for shaping and moulding the young brain. Hence the reason to worry about concussions in young athletes and the need for stricter laws to protect them.
Some of the important recommendations from Rowan’s Law include:
- mandatory concussion education and awareness 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
- medical clearance of all athletes before they return to play
It’s time that Canada follows its counterpart in the U.S. for implementing a concussion law that helps to protect our young athletes and hopefully prevent any catastrophic event. It’s time for Canada to wake up and protect our kids.
To read more about concussions from the four-part series from Postmedia News, read here: Rowan’s Law.