Rowan’s Law

Today marks “Rowan’s Law Day,” the first official day in Ontario meant to help raise awareness about concussion safety.

Rowan’s Law is named after Rowan Stringer, a high school rugby player from Ottawa, who died in 2013. She had a condition known as second impact syndrome (swelling of the brain caused by a subsequent injury that occurred before a previous injury healed).

She is believed to have experienced three concussions over six days while playing rugby. She had a concussion but didn’t know her brain needed time to heal. Neither did her parents, teachers or coaches.

Consequently, the province passed Rowan’s Law in March 2018, changing the conversation about how concussions are handled.

The law is meant to encourage coaches, parents and players to stop celebrating the “warriors” who jump back in the game too soon after a concussion–and instead recognize the serious brain injuries that concussions represent, and the time required to treat them.

Rowan’s Law will mean changes to how parents/guardians, coaches, and officials handle any possible concussions in sports.

It will be mandatory for sports organizations to review Ontario’s Concussion Awareness Resources, and they will also have to establish a Concussion Code of Conduct that sets out rules of behaviour to support concussion prevention as well as establish a “removal-from-sport” and “return-to-sport” protocol by July 1, 2020.

Will it affect how sports are played? Yes.

Players who suffer even a minor blow to the head will be pulled from the ice or the field, benched, and then dealt with according to protocol. While this may irk the parents, coaches and the players themselves, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Let’s hope Rowan’s Law will help save some young athletes from swelling of the brain, permanent brain damage, and possibly even death.

–Duane Hicks