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Concussions in Sport

A concussion is a common form of head or brain injury that causes changes in how the brain functions, leading to symptoms that can be physical, cognitive or emotional/behavioural.  A concussion can occur from a direct or indirect blow to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth within the skull.

Though concussions are common sport injuries, particularly among children and youth, there are sometimes subtle symptoms that may go unnoticed. Without identification and proper management, a concussion has the potential to result in permanent or severe brain damage.

Ontario takes the health and well-being of athletes seriously. Ontarians want to know that amateur athletes are protected by a safe sport system where everyone understands concussions, actively minimizes the risk of concussions, and knows what to do immediately if someone is concussed.

The government is improving concussion safety to create a world class amateur sport system where athletes can participate safely.

Concussion Safety Legislation

girl playing soccer

Ontario passed concussion safety legislation to protect amateur athletes and make sport safer on the field and at school.

Rowan’s Law (Concussion Safety), 2018, makes Ontario a national leader in concussion management and prevention by establishing mandatory requirements that call for:

  • Annual review of concussion awareness resources that help prevent, identify and manage concussions, which athletes, coaches, educators and parents would be required to review before registering in a sport
  • Removal-from-sport and return-to-sport protocols, to ensure that an athlete is immediately removed from sport if they are suspected of having sustained a concussion and giving them the time required to heal properly
  • A concussion code of conduct that would set out rules of behaviour to minimize concussions while playing sport.

In honour of Rowan Stringer, the 17-year-old rugby player whose death resulted from sustaining multiple concussions, the legislation establishes the last Wednesday in September as “Rowan’s Law Day”. The first Rowan’s Law Day was celebrated on Wednesday, September 26th, 2018.

Only section 5 of Rowan’s Law (Rowan’s Law Day) has been proclaimed to date. A proclamation date for the remaining sections of the legislation will be announced once regulations have been developed. The Ontario government will work closely with parents and sports organizations to ensure that the regulations for Rowan’s Law help athletes, coaches, educators, teachers and sport organizations improve concussion safety on the field and at schools.

Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada to pass concussion safety legislation, setting a precedent for sport legislation across the country. Our government worked closely with key medical experts, researchers and sport leaders – most notably the members of the Rowan’s Law Advisory Committee – in establishing this first-of-its-kind legislation.

Rowan's Law Advisory Committee

The legislation is part of the government’s response to the Rowan’s Law Advisory Committee report on prevention and management of concussions in amateur sport released in September 2017.

Ontario established the Rowan’s Law Advisory Committee to review the jury recommendations made as a result of the coroner’s inquest into the death of 17-year-old high school rugby player Rowan Stringer.

The Advisory Committee's report contains 21 recommended actions directed to all organized amateur sports, both school-based and non-school-based, in Ontario. The Committee’s recommendations are grouped into five themes: surveillance, prevention, detection, management and awareness.

To date, the Committee’s legislative recommendations have been addressed through Rowan’s Law as well as through amendments to the Education Act. The government continues to analyze all of the recommendations of the Rowan’s Law Advisory Committee and intends to address the recommended action items in cooperation with sector partners.