Ottawa teen's concussion death inspires push for 'Rowan's Law'
Emily Chan, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, June 4, 2015 8:41AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 4, 2015 12:29PM EDT
In 2013, Ottawa teen Rowan Stringer died after suffering multiple concussions while playing high school rugby. Now, a coroner's inquest jury is recommending the province enact "Rowan’s Law" in her honour, hoping that the new concussion management guidelines will save lives.
Stringer was only 17 when she died of brain swelling after suffering three concussions. The high school student was playing rugby when her head struck the ground on May 8, 2013.
She was sent to hospital, but died days later from second-impact syndrome. It turned out Stringer had a pre-existing injury from a previously undiagnosed concussion. The May 8 fall worsened the injury, and caused her brain to swell.
Stringer’s young death prompted a coronor’s inquest, which resulted in 49 recommendations to the province, school boards, and various other sports and health organizations.
At the top of the list is the suggestion that the province adopt "Rowan’s Law" to prevent further tragedy. The law is based on four criteria:
- Providing education on sport-related concussions to athletes, coaches and parents
- Removing a child or youth athlete from play if a concussion is suspected
- Ensuring the child or youth does not return to play until he or she has received medical clearance, and
- Ensuring there are strategies in place to help the child as they return to learning and sports
A key part of the recommendations also focuses on changing perceptions about concussions. Testimony and text messages shown at the inquest showed Stringer suspected she had a concussion earlier, but was determined to play anyway.
Stringer’s parents and the jury say that if Rowan’s Law was implemented, children would better understand the severity of head injuries.
"If she had been given the information from a younger age all the way along, I know that she would have made a different choice," Stringer’s mother, Kathleen, told CTV Ottawa on Wednesday.
Stringer’s parents, who participated in the inquest, also said they believe their daughter's story can help people understand and relate to the issue.
"We wanted to make sure that our story and Rowan’s name got out, because we think that that would have a higher impact, that people relate more to a personal story," Stringer’s mother, Kathleen, said on CTV’s Canada AM on Thursday.
Stringer’s father, Gordon, said participating in the inquest and supporting the law has helped the family carry on Rowan’s legacy.
"It gives us something positive to focus on," he said. "She always wanted to help people, especially children. And this gives an opportunity for her story to help youth in sports in Ontario and hopefully prevent her tragedy from happening again."
Though the parents said participating in the inquest was, at times, difficult, it was also “comforting” to know how well their daughter was taken care of. Now, they are focusing on encouraging the province to adopt the legislation.
"We've still got to make sure these things get implemented," Stringer’s father told CTV Ottawa. "And we'll be a part of whatever we need to be a part of to achieve that."
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Eric Longley