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What is Rowan's Law?

Rowan Stringer, a high school Rugby player from Ottawa, Ontario, passed away 3 years ago from Second Impact Syndrome due to multiple concussions suffered within a short period of time.

A coroner’s inquest into her death resulted in 49 recommendations to be implemented in an effort to prevent another tragedy such as this from happening in the future. Rowan’s Law, which passed unanimously at the Ontario Legislature on June 7, 2016, is a private members bill put forth by Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod (Napean-Carleton) along with Rowan’s parents, Gord and Kathleen Stringer designed to put these recommendations into action.

What is Second Impact Syndrome?

A concussion is a brain injury that ultimately results in a disturbance in the energy levels as well as blood flow within the brain. If the injury is managed appropriately through adequate recovery, most concussions recover without any additional or serious consequences. However, during this period of low energy, the brain is extremely vulnerable to additional trauma.

A second concussion during this recovery stage can result in a dangerous drop in energy levels and blood flow which leads to a rapid increase in swelling in the brain and death: this is Second Impact Syndrome. It is the result of suffering two concussions in a very short period of time (i.e., within a week or two). The scary part is that symptoms, meaning how you feel, have no bearing on the recovery level of the brain.

Rowan’s Story

On Friday May 3, 2013, Rowan was playing in a high school rugby tournament and in the last game of the day, she was tackled and removed from that game complaining of a headache. She had a game after school the following Monday (May 6) and was feeling great and ready to play. During that game someone stepped on her head and the headache returned; however, she did not tell anyone of this return in symptoms. On Wednesday (May 8), she had yet another game, which would be her last. She was tackled to the field, which resulted in a loss of consciousness that she never recovered. Doctors tried to relieve the swelling in her brain but were unable to do so.

The Law

The coroner’s inquest into Rowan’s death resulted in 49 recommendations, including (but not limited to):

  • Increased education and awareness for parents, coaches, athletes, and teachers surrounding concussion injuries
  • Better tools for coaches and trainers to identify concussions
  • Concussion policies in place at all school boards and sports associations across Ontario
  • Increased education and training for healthcare professionals to better treat and manage concussions

Rowan’s Law creates an expert advisory committee to Ontario’s Premier that will develop a plan within the next year to implement the coroner’s recommendations. Right now, every state in the USA has concussion-related legislation. With the passing of Rowan’s Law, Ontario is the first province in Canada to do so.

Being a part of this process of trying to help make Rowan’s Law a reality in Ontario (and hopefully the rest of Canada) has been an absolute honour for us at Complete Concussion Management; especially since this program was originally founded in part due to Rowan’s death. Listening to Gord and Kathleen’s passion and commitment to seeing this through and seeing their heartbreak in losing a child to something that could have been prevented has given us the strength to continue trying to make a change in this world.

To learn more about Rowans Law visit Rowanslaw.ca