British Columbia

Ontario's proposed youth concussion law needed in B.C., says football association

"I will say this to all parents, to all people in government, and everybody: Do you want your kid's name to be on the B.C. legislation?"

Similar legislation won't be introduced in B.C. anytime soon, says Health Minister Terry Lake

Strong safety David Bruton #30 of the Denver Broncos lies on the ground in pain after a play that would force him out of the game with a reported concussion during a game against the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 28, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Getty Images)

Bring in a law for concussions in youth sport now, before another young athlete has to die and lend their name to future legislation, says the executive director of the governing body of amateur football in British Columbia. 

"Every piece of legislation in the United States is named after some child. There was some tragedy in that state — they either died or they're in a wheelchair or they're never going to be normal," said  Patrick Waslen, who heads Football B.C.

"I will say this to all parents, to all people in government, and everybody: Do you want your kid's name to be on the B.C. legislation?"

Waslen said the province should follow the example of Ontario, which is looking to introduce Rowan's Law after the death of a 17-year-old rugby player in 2013.

"Unless we act on it, nothing is going to change," said Waslen.

Waslen said Football B.C has a concussion policy in place based on the Zackery Lystedt Law that was passed in Washington State, which requires any youth showing signs of a concussion to be cleared by a licensed health-care provider before they're allowed to return to the field.

Rugby player suffering 'grave effects': mom

Victoria resident Monica Mueller told B.C. Almanac guest host Michelle Eliot she believes her young adult son is suffering from "grave effects" caused by multiple concussions while playing rugby.

She said, over time, her son started struggling to focus in school and had difficulty sleeping.

"He's been a rugby player since Grade 8, he's 23 years old and he's now in hospital. He's been in hospital five times in the last year with serious psychotic episodes," she said.

Mueller said she can't know for sure if the concussions are related to her son's psychotic episodes, but said she wishes she could have prevented the head injuries.

"I stood many times on the sidelines and watched him and other kids being knocked out and being put right back on the field. I could get quite angry … but as a parent I'm responsible for keeping him safe, and I didn't do that. "

When asked if there should be legislation in place to prevent youth concussions, Mueller said "absolutely."

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)

Dr. David Rhine, an emergency room physician who runs Sport Concussion Management said there is divided opinion about the relationship between concussion and chronic neurological disease.

"In my opinion there's a clear relationship, but I don't know that clear cause and effect has been established."

A study by Danish researchers published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2014 found that a head injury, especially a severe head injury or one occurring between the ages of 11 and 15, increased the risk of a person developing a mental illness.

No legislation for B.C.: Health Minister

Ontario's proposed law would set guidelines for when to remove an athlete from playing higher-risk sports if a concussion is suspected, and ensure that athletes don't return to the sport until they're medically cleared to do so.

B.C.'s Health Minister Terry Lake said Nov. 26 that legislation will not be introduced in the near future in this province.

A statement from the ministry said it would continue to work with other ministries, Doctors of B.C. and provincial sports organizations "to develop further strategies to prevent and manage concussions, as well as establishing standardized concussion management protocols and guidelines."

National strategy in the works

The federal Ministry of Sport and Persons with Disabilities said Rowan's Law "is a step in the right direction."

"The Prime Minister has asked me and my colleague, the Minister of Health, to work together on a national strategy to raise awareness for parents, coaches and athletes on concussion treatment," said Carla Qualtrough in a written statement.

Waslen of Football B.C. said legislation isn't the only possibility for reducing concussions in youth policy, but said some kind of policy is needed.

"It could easily be solved tomorrow in B.C. by the provincial government saying to the sport funding arm that ... everyone's got to have a concussion policy in place, or we're not going to give them their money," he said.

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Football BC says provincial government should introduce legislation to reduce concussions from sports in B.C.

With files from Gavin Fisher


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.