Ontario introduces concussion bill named after teen rugby player who died

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press
November 26, 2015
By Allison Jones, The Canadian Press
A concussion bill named for a 17-year-old girl who died after being injured while playing high school rugby was introduced Wednesday in the Ontario legislature with rare all-party support.

Rowan Stringer had been accepted to the University of Ottawa's nursing program, but never got to attend, as she died in 2013 from multiple concussions. She was a nurturing person who would have wanted her memory to be used to help other children, said her mother, Kathleen.

"It's almost impossible to describe losing a child," she said Wednesday. "It's a devastating, tragic loss and the grief journey, as I'm finding out, actually doesn't really end, it just changes. I would never want another family to have to experience this again and I would be just devastated to find out that another child in Canada dies from second impact syndrome."

A study last year from Toronto's York University and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences found that the number of children and youth treated for concussions in both emergency departments and doctors' offices in Ontario has risen significantly.

Between 2003 and 2011, almost 89,000 pediatric concussions were treated in either an emergency department or a physician's office. The rate of concussions jumped to 754 from 466 per 100,000 for boys, and to 440 from 208 per 100,000 for girls.

It's not about banning contact sports, Stringer's parents say. Concussions will happen even from children falling from the monkey bars.

Rowan's Law would establish a committee to get the recommendations that came out of the coroner's inquest into her death implemented within a year. Those recommendations include establishing guidelines to ensure a child is removed from play if a concussion is suspected and that they not return to play until receiving medical clearance.

Lisa MacLeod, who represents the Ottawa-area riding where the Stringers live, said Rowan's Law would be the first concussion law in Canada.

The bill was co-sponsored by Liberal John Fraser and New Democrat Catherine Fife.

Rowan's father, Gord Stringer, said his daughter was a person who brought people together, so this is the way she would want action to happen.

"This isn't a political issue, it's a health and safety issue," he said. "It's for kids. It doesn't need a political stripe on it."

A previous attempt at concussion legislation was left on the table in the fall of 2012, not long before Rowan died.

"It would be a terrible tragedy to have another opportunity to get concussion legislation in place fail," said Gord Stringer.

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