Ottawa

Young athletes in Ontario signing new concussion code of conduct

Parents signing up their children for sports across Ontario in the coming weeks will be doing something they've likely never done before: signing a concussion code of conduct.

Legislation part of Rowan's Law, designed to protect, educate about head injuries

Ottawa ringette coach Karen Cameron says teenagers don't often think about the long-term effects of getting a concussion. (Jean Delisle CBC )

Parents signing up their children for sports across Ontario in the coming weeks will be doing something they've likely never done before: signing a concussion code of conduct.

It's part of Rowan's Law, a private member's bill passed in Ontario in March 2018 in memory of Rowan Stringer, 17, an Ottawa high school student who died of head injuries she sustained playing rugby.

The code sets out rules of behaviour to minimize concussions, and is mandatory for anyone playing amateur and school sports in the province. 

"It was great news for us," said Rowan's father, Gordon Stringer, who alongside his wife Kathleen pushed for years for the recommendations of a coroner's report to become law. 

"A code of conduct puts in front of people the idea that they have to be aware of concussion, its symptoms and how bad the outcomes can be," he said.

Rowan was 17 when she died on May 12, 2013, after suffering multiple head injuries while playing high school rugby. The student at John McCrae Secondary School had been tackled hard during a game four days before, hitting her head and neck on the ground.​

Gordon Stringer, whose daughter Rowan died after a 2013 rugby match, says a new concussion code of conduct could have prevented her death if it had been in place at the time. 0:46

The code includes things such as:

  • Zero tolerance for dangerous play.
  • Agreeing not to hide symptoms of a possible concussion and to report if they notice symptoms in someone else.
  • Understanding they will be removed from play if a concussion is suspected and will not return until they are medically cleared.

The zero tolerance policy is something Stringer believes could have helped his daughter. 

"The player that delivered the illegal tackle that ultimately resulted in her demise was warned earlier in the game and was simply given a warning for doing the very same thing," he said. 

Ringette Ontario said the new code of conduct is being welcomed by its players and coaches. 

"Having everybody aware of that now is also very important because some parents may not want their kids to come off the ice because they are competitive," said Karen Cameron, a longtime ringette player and director of the Ottawa Elite Ringette Camp. 

"This protects the staff, the children and the families."

The code of conduct was developed by experts with input from an advisory panel that included Stringer and former NHL player Eric Lindros, as well as school boards and sports organizations.

For Murray, it's a big change from her early days on the ice when nobody talked about this kind of thing. 

"I'm sure I played with girls who hit their head multiple times and nobody even knew about concussions very much back then. So we're certainly more aware," she said.