Rowan Stringer was a 17-year-old Ottawa girl described as bright, energetic, and curious. She was equally passionate about rugby. But something happened to Rowan on the playing field that should never happen to any kid. In 2013, she sustained a series of concussions and died as a result of her brain injuries.
It’s a devastating and tragic story. Yet, thanks to the advocacy of her parents, the community, and Ontario lawmakers, Rowan’s legacy will live on in new legislation recently passed in Ontario.
Following her death, a coroner’s inquest created a list of 49 recommendations aimed at implementing new youth sport concussion protocols in Canada. The first of those recommendations is an Ontario provincial act governing the management of youth concussions in all sports across the province – the so-called “Rowan’s Law.” The goal of the law is to ensure greater awareness and better treatment for concussion-related injuries.
While all US states have similar laws, Ontario’s is a first for Canada. Rowan’s Law creates an advisory committee to the premier to inform and make recommendations for improving concussion management in the province, with a focus on youth in sport. As part of those guidelines, young players are to be removed from activity if a concussion is suspected.
Lisa MacLeod is the Ontario MPP from Rowan’s home riding of Nepean-Carleton who introduced the bill. In doing so, she stated: “If you have a head injury and you’re playing sports – you’re skiing, you’re playing soccer, hockey, ringette, rugby, doesn’t matter – if you’re hurt, you need to tell somebody.”
Greater awareness of the risks of her injuries and her concussions could have saved Rowan’s life. The coroner’s report revealed that she had searched online for information on concussions, but did not discuss it with anyone until it was too late.
Rowan’s Law is designed to help protect kids in Ontario from a similar fate. Similar legislation will pop up across the country as the seriousness of concussions and brain injuries in sports continues to get further study and attention.