Ottawa

Concussion safety ad prompted by Rowan Stringer's death to air during NBA

A new concussion safety ad from the Ontario government that was prompted by the death of a 17-year-old Ottawa girl will air on Sportsnet tonight during the NBA finals.

Her father, Gordon Stringer, says ad is hard to watch but needed to be to make a difference

Ottawa high school student Rowan Stringer, 17, died on May 8, 2013, when she was tackled hard during a rugby game. She had suffered multiple concussions. (Facebook)

A new concussion safety TV ad campaign prompted by the death of a 17-year-old Ottawa girl is launching as millions of eyes will be on the highly anticipated Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

The powerful spot from the Ontario government recently started playing in Cineplex theatres and was set to start a run Monday night on Sportsnet as the Toronto Raptors take on the Golden State Warriors.

It shows a young female soccer player training hard and taking hits to her head during games, then collapsing on the field.

It ends with the words "Hit. Stop. Sit" — the slogan for an awareness campaign under Rowan's Law, Ontario's concussion safety legislation named for Rowan Stringer, who died in 2013 from second impact syndrome after multiple concussions as a rugby player.

'Hard to watch'

Her father, Gordon Stringer, said his family is pleased with the ad.

"For us it's hard to watch, but that's exactly what it needed to be," he said.

Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Michael Tibollo said the goal is to get the message to athletes, parents and coaches that if you're hit, stop playing, sit it out and seek medical advice.

"We've got to get away from the warrior mentality," he said. "The problem that happens is you're also being put into situations where you're being told suck it up when you do have some kind of trauma to the head and you continue because you want to do the best you can do."

'It's invisible'

Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod, who spearheaded Rowan's Law when she was in Opposition, said a culture change is required so players don't feel compelled to play through a head injury.

"One of the things I do when I'm coaching hockey, I remind the kids on my daughter's team that if they are injured, I know it's easy to come off the ice when you have a sore ankle or if you've broken your arm," the Nepean MPP said. "It's much more difficult to get off the ice, the field, the pitch, whatever, if you have a head injury because it's invisible."

Rowan's Law, a joint effort from MacLeod, Liberal John Fraser and New Democrat Catherine Fife, passed last year and established what MacLeod said is the first law of its kind in the country.

The law establishes removal-from-sport and return-to-sport protocols for players to ensure they are taken out of a game if they are suspected of having a concussion.

Starting July 1, athletes, parents, coaches and officials will be required to review concussion awareness resources and a concussion code of conduct that sets out rules of behaviour to minimize concussions while playing sports.

Former NHLer Eric Lindros, who was at Monday's announcement, called for concussion safety to become an issue in the federal election campaign.

"No matter what measures are taken in sport, concussions are going to occur from time to time, unfortunately," he said. "So let's be prepared and educated."

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