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By Dan Pollard, 12/05/19, 12:00PM EST


What are the signs of a concussion?

Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa Photography

Youth sports should be a source of positive education and physical activity in a fun, safe environment. Keeping players healthy is a top priority for all officials and associations. Learning more about concussions and brain injuries through Rowan's Law creates awareness for players, parents, game officials and team officials to recognize the signs and understand the importance of what's needed to return to play safely.

Rowan’s Law came into effect by the Ontario government on July 1, 2019. It was the result of an unfortunate incident where a high school rugby player named Rowan Stringer passed away after a series of head injuries. The law is for all athletes, ensuring that safety remains a top priority for everyone involved in sports.

Baseline testing is not recommended in youth athletes regardless of level of play or sport. The OMHA has aligned with Parachute Canada to provide education and up to date resources so parents and trainers can be aware of safe return to play procedures. The goal is to have everyone involved in sports be better equipped to handle any head injuries that may occur.

Brain injuries can happen to anyone, anywhere, including at home or at school. Communication is vital between parents and trainers to ensure that all parties are in the know of any injuries that may have occurred away from the rink.

The OMHA Trainers Program has an advisory board that features members of Parachute Canada. The OMHA has been a leader in player safety with the mouthguard policy, mandating helmets for coaches and on-ice officials, STOP patches, throat protectors and Respect in Sport Education.

Rowan’s Law (Concussion Safety), makes Ontario a national leader in concussion management and prevention by establishing mandatory requirements that call for:

  • Annual review of concussion awareness resources that help prevent, identify and manage concussions, which athletes, coaches, educators and parents would be required to review before registering in a sport.
  • Removal-from-sport and return-to-sport protocols, to ensure that an athlete is immediately removed from sport if they are suspected of having sustained a concussion and giving them the time required to heal properly
  • A concussion code of conduct that would set out rules of behaviour to minimize concussions while playing sport.

Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada to pass concussion safety legislation, setting a precedent for sport legislation across the country. The Ontario government worked closely with key medical experts, athletes, coaches and sport leaders – most notably the members of the Rowan’s Law Advisory Committee – in establishing this first-of-its-kind legislation.

Rowan’s Law makes it mandatory for sports organizations to:

  • ensure that athletes under 26 years of age, parents of athletes under 18, coaches, team trainers and officials confirm every year that they have reviewed Ontario’s Concussion Awareness Resources
  • establish a Concussion Code of Conduct that sets out rules of behaviour to support concussion prevention
  • establish a Removal-from-Sport and Return-to-Sport protocol

A concussion is a serious brain injury. It can’t be seen on X-rays, CT scans or MRIs. It may affect the way a person thinks, feels and acts. While the effects are typically short-term, a concussion can lead to long-lasting symptoms and even long-term effects. Signs and symptoms of a concussion include headache, dizziness, ringing in the ears, memory loss, nausea, light sensitivity, drowsiness and depression. If you notice signs of a concussion in others, or experience any of these symptoms yourself, consult with a physician or nurse practitioner.

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Dan Pollard is the host of Breakaway, The Minor Hockey Podcast. His passion for hockey led him to volunteer as a coach and administrator while his professional career has allowed him to cover the game at various levels with CBC, Sportsnet, the NHL Network and TSN. You can currently hear Dan every morning on 105.5 Hits FM in Uxbridge.

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