Rugby parents hope Rowan’s Law might change how...
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Nov 25, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Rugby parents hope Rowan’s Law might change how concussions are managed

Two years after Ottawa teenager Rowan Stringer died of second-impact syndrome, her parents are behind a private member’s bill pushing for concussion education and protocols in youth sports


Gord and Kathleen Stringer live with all kinds of “what ifs?”

At the top of that list is the toughest of questions.

What if their 17-year-old daughter Rowan hadn’t played in those five high school rugby games in May 2013, games in which she sustained numerous knocks to the head that would eventually lead to a fatal case of second-impact syndrome?

But, more than two years on, the Ottawa couple is sure of one thing as they continue to grieve the loss of their sports-loving teenager: If Rowan knew the consequences of that fateful game on May 8, 2013, she would have sat it out.

“She did not know that there was a potential to have that kind of an outcome, that she could die from playing that game,” Kathleen Stringer said Wednesday. “We need to have the youth and the adults, coaches and parents educated because we’re confident that if Rowan had the knowledge, she would have made a different choice.”

That’s why the Stringers approached Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod about creating Rowan’s Law, a bill aimed at managing how concussions are dealt with in both school-based and non-school based youth sports. Its highlights include the removal of athletes if concussions are suspected, medical clearance before they can return, and mandatory education for players, coaches and parents.

MacLeod introduced the legislation at Queen’s Park on Wednesday with support from Liberal MPP John Fraser and NDP MPP Catherine Fife, who co-sponsored the bill.

While private member’s bills are rarely enacted, MacLeod, the MPP for Ottawa’s Nepean-Carleton riding, is optimistic.

It’s also unusual for all three parties to co-sponsor a bill. And MacLeod said Wednesday that Michael Coteau, the minister of tourism, culture and sport, is a supporter.

Rowan’s Law is something good coming out of a very tragic event, MacLeod told the Star last month.

“When you have a young woman like Rowan, a beautiful little girl who has a bright future ahead of her, who continued to engage in play and the final impact was fatal, I think it really has motivated legislators to act.”

Such a bill was suggested by a coroner’s jury after an inquest into Rowan’s death was held in May. It was one of 49 recommendations made by that jury. Only some of them fall under provincial jurisdiction, which is why Rowan’s Law mandates a committee made up of representatives from four ministries — Tourism, Culture and Sport; Education; Health; and Children and Youth Services — be convened.

That committee will provide an implementation plan for the provincial recommendations within the coroner’s report, all of which must be complete within a year.

Gord Stringer hopes this bill will have a different fate than a similar proposed legislation from 2012, which died when the legislature was suspended that fall.

“It would be a terrible tragedy to have another opportunity to get concussion legislation in place fail.”

The second reading and the debate is scheduled for Dec. 10.

Rowan would be very proud of her namesake law meant to protect children, Kathleen said.

She still struggles to put losing her child into words.

“The grief journey, as I’m finding out, doesn’t really end. It just changes. I would never want another family to experience this.”

Toronto Star

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