Rowan’s Law

Monday, June 13, 2016

by Fiona Smith Bradley

I’d like to acknowledge Gordon and Kathleen Stringer for sharing the story of their daughter, Rowan. And thank them for their efforts in bringing forth such an important piece of legislation – Rowan’s Law.

As many of you may know, Rowan was an athletic and passionate girl, playing on multiple teams, discovering rugby while in grade 11. Over the course of nine days she sustained three concussions while playing with her high school rugby team. She died on Mother’s Day of Second-Impact Syndrome, which happens when a second concussion is sustained before the first has properly healed, leading to rapid swelling of the brain.

As a mother of three children, not far in age from Rowan, and who are equally engaged in sports, this tragedy hit close to home. And as an Occupational Therapist who works with clients on a daily basis who have experienced concussions and other brain injuries, I have a deep understanding of risks associated with concussions, and the impacts that they can play in people’s lives.

On June 7, 2016, Rowan’s Law – aimed to prevent concussions and ensure proper treatment by governing youth sport, both at home and in the community – passed third reading. This means that a committee will be established to review the 49 recommendations made by a coroner following Rowan’s death.

The recommendations would change the way parents, youth, schools, and the provincial government view, treat, talk about, and prevent concussions. A few of the recommendations include:

  • Adopting a zero-tolerance policy for head hits and high tackles in rugby.
  • Requiring parents and students to take part in a concussion awareness and management sessions, before participating in high impact sports.
  • Tracking student concussions to make sure that they receive treatment. This would also help provide concrete, Ontario-focused statistics.
  • Appropriately spacing contact/high impact sports games to reduce the risk of concussion.
  • Making sure that athletes who have been concussed don’t return to play until they are medical cleared.

If passed, Ontario would be the first province to adopt laws regulating youth concussions in Canada. 

More than 40% of of head injuries in children and youth aged 10-19 years of age treated by emergency are the result of sport or other recreation activities.(1)

In the coming months, these recommendations will hopefully become law. Until then, I urge you. as a mom and as an Occupational Therapist, to familiarize yourself with these recommendations, as well as the symptoms, and ways to prevent concussions.

Youth engagement in sport can be a rich part of their lives, helping to build friendships, develop skills, and foster lifelong passions. It’s our responsibility to keep our kids safe.