Creating 'a culture of safety' around concussion in sport on Rowan's Law Day

Concussion safety was top of mind across Ontario Wednesday. The last Wednesday of September has now been established as Rowan's Law Day across the province. In Sudbury, a team of medical professionals held an information session for parents, coaches and athletes.

Medical professionals from Northern Ontario School of Medicine provide education, awareness

A concussion information session was held Wednesday in Sudbury to mark Rowan's Law Day. It was a partnership between the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and the Sudbury Wolves. (Angela Gemmill/CBC )

A group of medical professionals were educating Sudbury parents, coaches and athletes about concussion safety.

The information session was presented Wednesday evening by the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, to mark the first ever Rowan's Law Day in Ontario.

It honours a 17-year old female rugby player from Ottawa who died in 2013 after multiple concussions.

The session was about providing education and awareness about concussion, said Shannon Kenrick-Rochon, a nurse practitioner in Sudbury.

The event was also to help others understand what the red flags are if a concussion is suspected.

"Really the role of parents, coaches, even spectators and teammates is really about recognizing those events and then moving them on to medical assessment," Kenrick-Rochon said.

Since concussion can be an evolving injury, the medical professionals used the slogan: "When in doubt sit them out." It's for coaches, parents or teachers who may suspect an athlete has a concussion.

Kenrick-Rochon says it's also important for teammates to speak up for their peers who may be at risk.

The medical professionals who presented the concussion information session in Sudbury Wednesday night handed out a concussion recognition tool for coaches, parents and athletes to know the red flag clues to suspect the brain injury. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

Dr Tara Baldisera says the concussion event was also a chance to help create a culture of safety within the community.

"It's the way that we talk about concussion in the locker room, the way that we treat concussion and talk to our patients about it," she said.

"And the way that coaches recognize it as well, and for athletes to know it's okay to report this. You can recover from a concussion, you can get back to your sport, you can get back to your life, with some guidance."

Baldisera says it remains important for athletes, coaches, parents and teachers to get a suspected concussion diagnosed by a medical professional.

Sudbury Wolves vice president of marketing, Andrew Dale, spoke at the concussion information session in Sudbury, about his experience with concussion. The former junior and professional hockey player says he experienced his first concussion around the age of 14 or 15. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

The Sudbury Wolves vice president of marketing, Andrew Dale, provided a first-hand account of what it's like to have a concussion. Dale played both junior and professional hockey.

He says he suffered his first concussion at the age of 14 or 15 when he was with a Sudbury team visiting Timmins.

"I'd got hit towards the end of the game. I'd lost consciousness, didn't play the rest of the game, and don't remember a whole lot about it."

Dale says his coaching staff at the time made sure he didn't fall asleep on the bus during the ride back to Sudbury.

Dispelling myths

During the information session, the medical professionals answered a question from the audience about this myth, which is no longer practiced.

"It's important certainly to make sure the athlete, the child, who has a suspicion of concussion is not left alone, not operating a motorized vehicle, but rest is an important early strategy for the first couple of days," says Dr Jairus Quesnele, a chiropractor in Sudbury. 

He adds that this rest should not be prolonged in a dark room, with sensory deprivation.

Quesnele says athletes should gradually engage in their daily lives and start to increase their physical activity.

The medical professionals who presented at the information session compared concussions to snowflakes, stating that each one has different symptoms, duration and recovery.

Baldisera reassures athletes that may have suffered a concussion that they can recover.

"You can get back to your sport. You can get back to your life, with some guidance."


Angela Gemmill


Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 15 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to