September 2022

Support concussion safety

With school back in full swing, amateur sports and its public safety needs are top of mind as well. This year sees increased emphasis on concussion safety, as Rowan’s Law (legislation the government passed in 2018), took full effect earlier this year. The goal of the law is to improve concussion awareness and safety — and health care providers like you have a role to play.

The final parts of Rowan’s Law took effect on January 1, 2022. The law applies to amateur competitive sport throughout the province, including athletics in schools. It includes requirements on removing and returning amateur athletes from sport when a concussion or a suspected concussion occurs. Under the law, athletes cannot return to practice or play unless a Nurse Practitioner (NP) or physician has medically assessed them, and approved their return to the sport.

What this means for you

NPs and physicians are the only health care professionals who can clear athletes for a return-to-sport. Therefore, if you are an NP, you may see an increase in the number of suspected concussion patients and requests for documentation.

While Rowan’s Law doesn’t prescribe the form that returning to play must take, sports organizations and school boards may request a medical note as part of their protocols.

But all nurses have a role to play in supporting concussion safety. Nurses should be aware of the signs and symptoms of sport-related concussion injuries, and should share supporting materials with patients and their guardians. There are resources available online to help health care providers support concussion safety efforts, including handbooks, awareness training tools and online courses.

Marking Rowan’s Law Day

Ontario marks Rowan’s Law Day annually on the last Wednesday of September, which this year falls on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022.

The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about concussion safety and remember the namesake of the law. Rowan Stringer, the rugby captain of her high school team who aspired to become a nurse, died tragically in May 2013, after sustaining a concussion during a match. She was 17.

A coroner’s inquest found that she had likely suffered two earlier concussions in the previous five days, and the fatal concussion was due to second impact syndrome. (Second impact syndrome occurs when an individual experiences a second head injury before completely recovering from an initial head injury.)

Now Ontarians — and nurses in particular — can help honour Stringer and her legacy by ensuring that athletes who play do so safely.

To read more about Rowan’s Law, visit the Government of Ontario’s website.

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