Ontario has passed a new bill that will protect amateur athletes and educate coaches about the danger of head injuries. The first of its kind in Canada, the new concussion safety legislation was passed with all-party support on Tuesday March 27th; such unanimous consensus is rare, suggesting a shift in social and political awareness of sports related injuries.
The bill will be named “Rowan’s Law” to honour the memory of 17-year-old Rowan Stringer, who died in 2013 after suffering multiple head injuries while playing high school rugby. Rowan’s father, Gordon Stringer, said he hoped that this new legislation would encourage reform in other provinces across Canada.
“The heavy lifting has been done here in Ontario,” he said. “But this is not something that’s an Ontario issue. This is something that needs to be addressed across Canada.”
The new law established protocols to remove players from a sport if they are suspected of having a concussion. Figures of authority in sport, such as teachers and coaches, will also be required to review resources that will aim to educate them on the identification and management of concussion related injuries.
Daiene Vernile, Ontario’s minister of tourism, culture and sport, called the new law a “historic step” that balances the approach to concussion management in amateur sport.
“The Rowan’s Law Act will be a catalyst for longer-term culture change for concussion management and injury prevention in amateur sport and beyond,” she said.
Tory legislator Lisa MacLeod said she was thrilled to see the legislation pass but thought other provinces have been slow to follow Ontario’s lead. She remained hopeful that the federal government will help move concussion safety forward.
MacLeod also praised the Stringer family for their work on the issue and said the involvement of former NHL player Eric Lindros, talking about his experiences, further helped shine on concussion safety.
“We’re talking about concussions now,” she said. “There’s a great deal of awareness when you’re at the hockey rink or the soccer field or the rugby pitch compared to where it was before.”
Rowan died from second impact syndrome after experiencing multiple concussions.
With a joint introduction of the new bill from Progressive Conservative, NDP and Liberal party members, Rowan’s Law is a significant step forward in personal injury law, specifically sports related injury.