‘Ottawa’ Rowan’s Law on Track to be Passed June 7
Ontario’s concussion safety bill — “Rowan’s law” — will likely be passed at Queen’s Park next week, just days before the provincial legislature ends its spring session.
In a rare move, the private member’s bill introduced by Progressive Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod last September and co-sponsored by NDP MPP Catherine Fife and Liberal MPP John Fraser received unanimous consent on Monday as a priority for this session at Queen’s Park.
If passed on June 7 as expected, the legislation would set the stage for co-ordinating youth concussion protocols among four provincial ministries and other groups. The first step will be creating an expert committee on how to make that happen.
The law, named in honour of Rowan Stringer, a Barrhaven teen who died after sustaining two closely spaced concussion while playing rugby, would be a first in Canada, making Ontario a ground-breaking jurisdiction, said MacLeod. In Canada, concussion protocols vary from province to province and from city to city. Meanwhile, all U.S. states have youth concussion management laws.
“I’m just thrilled. It’s a great day,” said MacLeod. “Young people will know that if they suspect they have a concussion, they can take themselves out of a game.”
Stringer, a 17-year-old student at John McCrae Secondary School, died in hospital four days after sustaining a head injury during a school rugby match in May 2013. She had massive brain swelling due to “second impact syndrome,” a condition that results from sustaining another concussion before the first has healed. In texts to friends just before the game, Stringer indicated that she suspected she had sustained a concussion in another match a few days earlier.
The five-person jury in a coroner’s inquest into Rowan’s death made 49 recommendations last June, including a call for Rowan’s Law. The four cornerstones include education for athletes, coaches and parents; removing a young athlete from play if a concussion is suspected; ensuring that an athlete doesn’t return without a doctor’s clearance, and; ensuring that strategies are in place with return to play.
“It’s great news for us,” Rowan’s father, Gordon Stringer, said Monday. “Her death was preventable. A lot of prevention initiatives involve education and awareness. It’s part of a cultural change that needs to happen, like anti-bullying and anti-smoking education.”
Stringer said he and his wife Kathleen felt relief when they learned that Rowan’s Law is likely to pass next week, but they’re still awaiting the actual vote.
A previous sports concussions bill expired on the table in 2012. “It might have made a difference to Rowan,” said her father.