Keeping Children Safe From Concussion is a Shared Responsibility
Rowan Stringer was a gifted athlete who died as the result of multiple head injuries she sustained while playing rugby 10 years ago. The 17-year-old Ottawa high school senior was the captain of her rugby team and also played flag football, soccer, ringette and lacrosse and enjoyed snowboarding. She was looking forward to attending university to study nursing.
She was described as a tough competitor and a natural leader. In the days before her death she ignored several concussion symptoms, according to CBC News. Rowan's brain was not healed and had not rested properly from two previous concussions when she took to the field on May 8, 2013, a coroner’s inquest was told.
During the game, the teen was upended and landed on her head on the ground after being tackled. She sat up momentarily and then lost consciousness. Rowan died four days later in hospital.
Second Impact Syndrome.
The coroner’s inquest heard she died of Second Impact Syndrome – catastrophic swelling caused by a second injury to a brain still healing from previous trauma.
Five years after her death, the Ontario government passed Rowan’s Law, legislation designed to protect amateur athletes and educate coaches about the dangers of head injuries. The initiative was the first of its kind in Canada and makes it mandatory for sports organizations to have a concussion code of conduct and protocols for removing injured athletes from play and determining when they may return.
A concussion is a form of mild traumatic brain injury. It is typically the result of a hit to the head, neck, face or another part of the body that causes the brain to move inside the skull. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- all concussions are serious;
- most concussions occur without loss of consciousness;
- concussions can occur in any sport or recreational activity; and
- recognition and proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or even death.
Symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, blurry vision or vision changes, nausea or vomiting, slurred speech, ringing in the ears and sensitivity to light or noise. The person may experience drowsiness or fatigue, trouble with smell or taste, sleep disturbance, problems finding their words or thinking clearly and difficulty focusing or remembering.
Symptoms may be immediately evident or could be felt days after an injury, especially in children and the elderly.
‘Serious Concern For Children and Youth.’
More than 280,000 students from across Ontario participate in high school sports programs. But it is not just athletes who suffer from concussions. Concussions are common “both within and outside sport and recreational settings, and they remain a serious concern for children and youth,” according to the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS).
“An estimated 200,000 concussions occur annually in Canada, with children and youth affected primarily,” CPS reports. “Any child or youth experiencing a significant fall or hit should be assessed for head injury and possible concussion.”
There are some activities that may seem obvious places for concussions to occur, such as hockey or football. However, tobogganing was among the most common sports and recreation-related activities with reported concussions, researchers say.
Knowledge is Limited.
Lack of insight into these injuries is a concern according to the Public Health Agency of Canada that found:
- One in two Canadians have little or no knowledge about concussion.
- One in four do not know how concussion is treated.
- Only 15 per cent can correctly identify the best ways to treat concussions.
- Only four in 10 are aware of available concussion tools or resources.
People often fail to recognize that a blow to the head or body can cause a concussion. Because of that, someone may not receive medical attention at the time of the injury. They may later report symptoms such as dizziness, headache or difficulty remembering or concentrating.
While the vast majority of people recover within a few weeks, those who suffer from a concussion are at increased risk for another. A concussion that occurs before the brain recovers from the first increases the likelihood of that person having long-term problems.
Sadly, young children and teens are more likely to get a concussion and take longer to recover than adults, research has found.
What is especially troubling is that despite the serious and even life-threatening consequences of a concussion studies in the United States reveal that less than 50 per cent of high school athletes will report when they have been concussed. Many athletes hide their symptoms feeling they are fine to continue or they don’t want to let the team, their friends or their family down.
Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Concussion.
When a child suffers a blow, or a closed head injury that shocks the brain they may not realize just how important it is to step back and assess the injury. That means it is up to parents, coaches and the athletes themselves to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussions and encourage honesty in reporting them.
Rowan’s Law was enacted to increase awareness about concussions through education for parents, coaches, athletes and teachers. In Ontario, it is mandatory for sports organizations to:
- ensure that athletes under 26 years of age, parents of athletes under 18, coaches, team trainers and officials confirm every year that they have reviewed Ontario’s Concussion Awareness Resources;
- establish a Concussion Code of Conduct that sets out rules of behaviour to support concussion prevention; and
- establish a Removal-from-Sport and Return-to-Sport protocol.
An athlete who has suffered a blow to the head should be removed from play and assessed. If there are signs of a concussion, the person should be taken to an emergency room or health care practitioner. If the person is unconscious, lost consciousness or had a seizure, call 911.
Because symptoms may appear hours or days later, anyone who has suffered a hit to the head should be monitored to ensure they haven’t suffered a concussion with possible damage to the brain.
We Can Help.
Concussions are difficult to diagnose and can affect different people in different ways. This is why education is such an important tool in the ongoing effort to keep our children healthy and happy. If your child has been injured you might have concerns about the circumstances. Contact us at Gluckstein Lawyers. Our head injury lawyers can guide you through the legal process and explain your options. You may not decide to file a claim, but we can advise you on what steps to take in case you change your mind.
Your initial meeting with one of our personal injury lawyers is free and without obligation on your part and we do not charge legal fees until your claim is settled.
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