Rowan's Law - Youth Concussions

Athletes have always been more susceptible to physical injury. Depending on the sport, certain types of injuries are more prevalent, and one of these is a form of brain injury commonly referred to as a concussion.  This past June marked an important day with the passing of Rowan’s Law, which casts a glaring light on youth sports and the physical impact they have on the lives of teenagers.

Rowan Stringer, for whom the the Bill was named, was an active seventeen- year-old who died in 2013 after a game of rugby in Ottawa. This was her second concussion within days and both were obtained while playing rugby. Her family was devastated by their loss, and subsequently played a large role in the creation of, and passing of this law.

Rowan’s Law is intended to improve and implement procedures that would do the following:

  • Ensure that youth are removed from a game if noticeable that they have suffered a concussion.
  • Implement awareness through educating everyone directly involved in sporting activities (such as parents, players, trainers, coaches and managers).
  • Ensure that proper medical clearance is obtained before a player returns to the game. 

A concussion is categorized as a type of traumatic brain injury.  It is usually initiated by a blow to the head which causes the brain to shift in a forward and backward motion within the skull.  Although a concussion is typically defined as a mild brain injury, its effects can, in fact, be long term and even catastrophic. Some symptoms of concussions include, but are not limited to, nassea, dizziness,  ringing in the ears, a confused/dazed feeling, blurred vision, light sensitivity, loss of consciousness, headaches and amnesia.  However, some accident victims experience significant long-term symptoms, including personality changes, depression and cognitive problems such as the impaired concentration.

In most high contact sports, comradery and the “shake it off” mentality is a way of life. Players are often taught to “walk off” their injury and return to a game.  With the death of this young player, overdue attention was brought to the lack of legislation governing sport concussion protocols for adolescents in Canada.  

Many other organizations have made recommendations highlighting the importance of concussion awareness, including the Canadian Paediatric Society in “Sport-Related Concussion: Evaluation and Management”, Mar 3, 2014.  According to their research, nine to twelve percent of concussions in youth were due to injuries incurred during high school sports. One of the leading experts in sports-associated concussions, Dr. Charles Tator believes that a concussion is more impactful to an adolescent's brain, and requires a longer recovery period than in adults.  

In March 2014, Ontario was one of the first provinces to implement a strategic policy to foster awareness of, and establish a protocol for handling concussions suffered in school.  Also, in “Sport Concussion Education and Prevention” (2012), Mr. Tator reports that the Fair Play system of hockey rules which is used in Quebec has reduced the incidence of injuries, particularly concussion.  By studying the differences in concussion incidence for specific age groups and several levels of play in Quebec and Alberta, there is a compelling argument for deferring body-checking until at least the age of 13.  It has also been shown that other types of injuries, such as spinal injuries, are lower in Quebec, which some attribute to improvements in the culture and coaching, including the adoption of Fair Play rules.

At the law offices of Burn Tucker Lachaîne, we have represented many clients who have suffered serious symptoms resulting from traumatic brain injury, including concussion.  We understand the substantial impact of this often devastating injury on the life of an accident victim and their loved ones.  As well as the challenges of dealing with the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury, serious injury is often accompanied by a financial strain for the entire family, particularly when the accident victim is no longer able to work in the same capacity, either on a temporary basis or long-term.  If you have experienced a concussion or other serious injury due to an accident resulting from negligence, call Burn Tucker Lachaîne to find out about your best strategies for seeking compensation.

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month in Ottawa and efforts are being made to alert the general public to the significant frequency and potential impact of this type of injury. It is very important to report a concussion (or suspected concussion) experienced by a child, regardless of the severity. Only a doctor can truly assess and diagnose a head injury and if it goes unreported or untreated, there is a higher potential for disastrous long-term injury, sometimes even resulting in death.  

By Colleen Burn of Burn Tucker Lachaîne Personal Injury Lawyers on July 07, 2016
Tags: Brain Injury, Head Injury, Personal Injury, Safety, Serious Injury