QUEEN’S PARK—On March 6, and after years of lobbying and education efforts from the Stringer family, Bill 193, or Rowan’s Law, was passed with unanimous support at Queen’s Park. Rowan’s Law was named for Rowan Stringer, an aspiring rugby player, who died just shy of her 18th birthday, a result of Second Impact Syndrome due to concussion.
Rowan was the daughter of Gordon and Kathleen Stringer and the great granddaughter of the late Gordon and Stella Stringer (Wood) of Sheguiandah and Little Current. Her grandparents were Ralph and Cathy Stringer. Rowan Stringer had been a student athlete at John McCrae Secondary School in Nepean, an Ottawa suburb.
“On May 3 (2013) she participated in an all-day tournament, playing three shortened games,” the Stringers wrote on the website. “In the third game she was tackled, removed from play and shortly after complained of a headache. The following Monday she had a game after school and was feeling great and ready to play. In this game, someone stepped hard on her head and her headache returned and she suspected she had a concussion but told no adult. Wednesday, May 8 after school was her last game. She was not feeling well but wanted to play and in this game, she sustained her last concussion which led to Second Impact Syndrome and her death on May 12.”
“It’s terrible and devastating to lose a child,” the parents continue. “What’s even worse is that Rowan’s death was preventable. This is why we’ve decided to do what we can to tell Rowan’s story, educate children, athletes and all involved in child and youth sport. Our goal is to help to prevent future injury and death from concussion.
Creating legislation, Rowan’s Law, will help protect our youth and fulfill Rowan’s dream of helping children.”
Under Rowan’s Law, a sport organization must not register an individual who is under the prescribed age in a sports activity unless the individual confirms that they have reviewed the concussion awareness resources approved by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. For individuals under 18 years of age or such other prescribed age, the parent or guardian of the individual must also confirm that they have reviewed the resources, and individuals who serve as a coach or in other prescribed positions for a sport organization must also confirm that they have reviewed the resources.
Rowan’s Law also states that a sport organization must establish a concussion code of conduct and a removal-from-sport protocol for athletes who are suspected of having sustained a concussion. The protocol must, among other things, establish a specific process to implement the immediate removal of an athlete and must designate persons who are responsible for ensuring the removal of the athlete and ensuring that they do not return to training, practice or competition, except in accordance with the sport organization’s return-to-sport protocol.
Sports groups are also required to establish a return-to-sport protocol with respect to athletes who have sustained a concussion or are suspected of having sustained a concussion. The protocol must, among other things, establish a specific process to implement the return of an athlete to training, practice or competition and must designate persons who are responsible for ensuring that an athlete does not return until permitted to do so in accordance with the protocol.
The Act also proclaims the last Wednesday in September as Rowan’s Law Day.
Rowan’s Law also amends the Education Act. Part XIII.1 of the Act is renamed “Pupil Health” and a new section is added to it. The new section authorizes the Minister to establish and require boards to comply with policies and guidelines respecting concussions in pupils. The Minister is also given authority to make regulations prescribing requirements respecting concussions in pupils of private schools and to require private schools to comply with the requirements.
Derek Debassige, clinic director/owner, Manitoulin Physio based in M’Chigeeng is considered a local expert in the field of concussion, hosting clinics and helping parents and coaches determine whether a return to play is right for young athletes.
Mr. Debassige said he was pleased to see the enactment of Rowan’s Law, noting that the concussion conversation has advanced a great deal since 2013 and Rowan’s untimely death.
“It’s taken some time to get to that point,” he added.
“It’s important to protect the amateurs, but there’s also a good education component, especially for parents and educators,” Mr. Debassige said.
Rowan’s Law, Mr. Debassige continued, has helped to advance concussion awareness, especially at schools; some of which had concussion protocols in place, and some of which didn’t.
“Having consistent messaging to parents is something we’re still challenged with (in regards to return to play),” he said.
Mr. Debassige said he is pleased with the portion of Rowan’s Law that asks students and their guardians to sign an agreement stating that they have read the concussion awareness resources and know the potential issues involved, particularly with contact sports, before they play.
Knowing the signs of even the mildest concussion is key, Mr. Debassige added. There is such a push to participate, to lace up for that championship game or head out on the pitch for the playoff final, that the risks are often forgotten. “When weighted against the actual risk, and most individuals dramatically underestimate that risk, it’s just not worth it.”
Rowan Stringer’s father, Gordon Stringer, played a key role in the work of the Rowan’s Law Advisory Committee which came into being following recommendations from an inquest into the teen’s 2013 death. Former NHL superstar Eric Lindros, whose career was sidelined due to multiple concussions, also played a major role in promoting the new legislation.
The day the legislation passed at Queen’s Park, March 6, Rowan’s parents were in the legislature. Rowan’s father Gordon Stringer told a Toronto Star reporter that, “the heavy lifting has been done here in Ontario. This is something that needs to be addressed across the country.”
This article originally appeared in the Manitoulin Expositor on March 21, 2018 . Reprinted with permission of the author Alicia McCutcheon. www.manitoulin.ca