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New law aims to prevent brain injuries among Ontario athletes

Pending Royal Assent, schools and coaches will soon have to comply with a new Ontario law that aims to protect athletes from suffering concussions. Rowan's Law will change the safety culture around concussions, which are often not recognized as brain injuries. The law arose from the 2013 death of the 17-year-old rugby player, Rowan Stringer, who suffered a fatal head injury after several prior concussions.

The goal is to provide training and education to coaches, parents, athletes and other authorities to bring about a better understanding of the dangers posed by concussions. Once the new bill becomes an act of parliament, safety precautions designed to prevent head trauma will be mandatory. Codes of conduct will be established that will ensure that any athlete whose injury is deemed a concussion will receive the necessary recovery time to make sure he or she is healed before returning to the sports field.

All athletes that play hockey, soccer, rugby and other contact sports are at risk, and authoritative figures like coaches must be held accountable for allowing concussed athletes back too soon. However, the primary aim will be to prevent concussions from happening because even if sufficient recovery time is allowed, repeated concussions can cause severe brain damage that might be life-altering or even fatal. A hockey coach noted that, unlike other injuries, the brain cannot be bandaged, put in casts or braces until it is healed.

Ontario parents will now have even more reasons to expect their children to come home unharmed and safe after sports matches, training or practices. However, any parent who believes that his or her child was not protected from such harm may have grounds to sue those believed responsible. An experienced brain injuries lawyer can assess the allegations and determine the viability of a lawsuit, and if grounds exist, he or she can assist with the ensuing legal proceedings.

Source: thestar.com, "Concussion laws passed in Ontario to protect youth athletes", Kristin Rushowy, March 6, 2018

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