'Rowan's Law' for concussion education to be tabled in Ontario this fall

The parents of Ottawa teen Rowan Stringer, who was the subject of a coroner's inquest after her concussion-related death, rallied to make "Rowan's Law" a reality with the launch of a petition in support of concussion education legislation this afternoon.

Legislation would help implement inquest recommendations made after teen rugby player's death

Ottawa high school student Rowan Stringer died at 17 on May 8, 2013 when she was tackled hard during a rugby game. On Tuesday, Ontario passed concussion safety legislation designed to protect amateur athletes and educate coaches about the dangers of head injuries. (Facebook)

The parents of Ottawa teen Rowan Stringer, who was the subject of a coroner's inquest after her concussion-related death, rallied to make "Rowan's Law" a reality with the launch of a petition in support of concussion education legislation this afternoon. 

The 17 year old died in May 2013 after suffering three concussions in less than a week while playing high school rugby. The jury for the coroner's inquest into her death made 49 recommendations to prevent similar deaths in June, including making concussion awareness mandatory in the Ontario curriculum. 

Nepean-Carleton Progressive Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod said she will introduce Rowan's Law in the Ontario legislature this fall, which would create an expert advisory committee to help with the implementation of the jury's recommendations. 

Rowan's family launched the petition in support of the legislation at an Ottawa rugby field along with athletes, coaches medical professionals and politicians.

"Rowan's death was preventable," said Rowan's mother, Kathleen Stringer. "We really think that this law is going to help children."

Rowan's father, Gordon Stringer said education is the key to preventing concussion-related deaths.

"We really feel that if you give kids the tools and the education to make those decisions they will make them, or they will at least have a teammate or a coach or a teacher of a mentor who will be able to recognize those signs and symptoms and maybe talk to them with the education that they have," he said.

Kathleen Stringer (centre) speaks at a rally in support of Rowan's Law, as her husband Gordon Stringer (right) watches. The upcoming concussion education legislation is named after their daughter, Rowan Stringer, who died after suffering three concussions in less than a week while playing high school rugby. (CBC)

Building grassroots support

MacLeod, the Stringer family's MPP, said she is working with the governing Liberals and NDP to pass the legislation. She said she will present the petition to the legislature on Monday.

"Today's event was critical in building that grassroots, community-level support so that other members of provincial parliament, regardless of political party, will support my initiative," she said, adding that the legislation will be co-sponsored by John Fraser, Liberal MPP for Ottawa South. 

"We had a lot of young athletes here and it was really important for them to understand that if they get a concussion or they feel like they have a headache or there is a brain injury there, possibly, that they have to step out of play. ... A very critical component of this legislation will be making young people aware of what could go wrong."

If passed, Ontario would be the first jurisdiction in the country to have concussion-related legislation, according to MacLeod. Kathleen Stringer said she hoped other provinces and territories would follow Ontario's lead.

Barrhaven Councillor Jan Harder also announced she would put forward a motion to name the rugby field at Ken Ross Park "Rowan Stringer Field."


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