Rowan's Law Day a lasting reminder of concussion danger

The last Wednesday in September has been set aside to remind students and educators in Ontario about the dangers of concussion.

17-year-old Rowan Stringer died after suffering multiple concussions in 2013

Gordon Stringer became an advocate for concussion awareness after losing his daughter Rowan in 2013. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

It's been a long, tough fight for Ottawa's Gordon Stringer. 

But after years of working with two different governments, Rowan's Law, named in memory of his daughter, was finally passed in March 2018, and with it the establishment of Rowan's Law Day — the last Wednesday in September. 

Each year on this day, schools across the province will host concussion awareness events aimed at educating students and faculty alike on the potentially fatal condition that claimed the life of Rowan Stringer in 2013.

The 17-year-old died after sustaining multiple concussions while playing rugby with her Ottawa high school. Since then, her family has advocated for change. 

"Rowan was a very positive kid. She wanted to help the kids and her plan was to be a pediatric nurse," her father said Wednesday. "We look at this as helping her deliver on what she would've done in her life, making a difference in people's lives."

Lack of awareness

Sylvia Jones, Ontario's minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, said the awareness campaign is meant to help students understand what to do when they suspect they've sustained a concussion, and gives educators and coaches the tools they need to seek help for their students. 

"We're not talking about discouraging people from playing rugby or from playing on the ice," she said. "What we want to do is make sure that they understand what a concussion looks like."

MPP Sylvia Jones, minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, said awareness is the first step in preventing concussions from happening in the first place. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

According to Ontario's Ministry of Education, concussions represent 21 per cent of student injuries treated by a doctor or nurse. 

Concussions symptoms can be subtle, Jones said, leaving many students unsure exactly what to look for. But giving students that knowledge is key in gathering data that will prevent further injuries. 

"The data is an important part, but if we don't have that awareness, we won't have young athletes coming forward," she said. 

'Completely preventable'

Rowan's Law created new rules aimed at protecting injured students from further injury, and introduced new protocols that aim to prevent concussions in the first place.

'Her death was completely preventable'

4 years ago
Gordon Stringer was at Queen's Park on Wednesday to mark the first Rowan's Law Day. His daughter, Rowan Stringer, died in 2013 after suffering multiple concussions during rugby games. 0:56

But the work isn't done yet — the regulations that accompany the bill still have to be written, and a system to track concussion data has yet to be established. 

Stringer said there have been many tough days after losing Rowan, but he hopes the outcome will help save lives.

"Her death was completely preventable," he said. "That drives you to make sure that you do everything you can so that it doesn't happen again."