Ontario passes Concussion Safety Law for amateur sports

Friday, March 16, 2018

In a move that should be noted by all combat sports organizations in Ontario, the Government passed legislation imposing concussion protocols in the Province.

The legislation, named Rowan’s Law (Concussion Safety), was passed in honour of Rowan Stringer, a 17-year-old rugby player who died following sustaining multiple concussions.

The law impacts ‘sport organizations‘ a broad category defined  as “a person or entity that carries out, for profit or otherwise, a prescribed activity in connection with an amateur competitive sport and that satisfies such other criteria as may be prescribed” and requires these to have concussion protocols in place.

The government is required to create and maintain “concussion awareness resources” and make these available to the public.  To this end the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport published these Concussion Guidelines

All athletes in a sport organization (or the parent’s of children athletes) must confirm that they reviewed these concussion awareness resources within 12 months before being registered with their sport organization.

Sport organizations cannot use coaches or other officials unless these individuals give “the sport organization confirmation that they have reviewed the concussion awareness resources at the prescribed times and in accordance with the prescribed requirements.“.

Organizations must develop a “concussion code of conduct” that satisfies the requirements set out in regulations passed under the Rowan’s Law.  All athletes, coaches, officials and others acting in prescribed positions must acknowledge familiarity with these concussion protocols.

The organizations must have a ‘removal from sport protocol’ that

(a) establishes, in accordance with such requirements as may be prescribed, a specific process to implement the immediate removal of an athlete who is suspected of having sustained a concussion;

(b) designates persons who are responsible for ensuring that,

(i) an athlete is immediately removed from further training, practice or competition if the athlete is suspected of having sustained a concussion,

(ii) if the athlete is under 18 years of age or such other age as may be prescribed, the parent or guardian is informed of the removal,

(iii) such persons or entities as may be prescribed are informed of the removal, and

(iv) once removed, the athlete is not permitted to return to training, practice or competition, except in accordance with the sport organization’s return-to-sport protocol;

(c) sets out the responsibilities of other prescribed persons if they suspect that an athlete has sustained a concussion during training, practice or competition; and

(d) satisfies such other requirements as may be prescribed.

Additionally organizations must implement a ‘return to sport protocol’ that

(a) applies in circumstances where the sport organization becomes aware that one of its athletes has sustained a concussion or is suspected of having sustained a concussion, regardless of whether or not the concussion was sustained or is suspected of having been sustained during a sport activity associated with the sport organization;

(b) establishes, in accordance with such requirements as may be prescribed, a specific process to implement the return of an athlete to training, practice or competition after the athlete has sustained a concussion or is suspected of having sustained a concussion;

(c) designates persons who are responsible for ensuring that,

(i) an athlete who has sustained a concussion or is suspected of having sustained a concussion does not return to training, practice or competition until permitted to do so in accordance with the return-to-sport protocol, and

(ii) such persons or entities as may be prescribed are informed that an athlete is permitted to return to training, practice or competition;

(d) sets out the responsibilities of other prescribed persons; and

(e) satisfies such other requirements as may be prescribed.

Author Erik Magraken is a British Columbia litigation lawyer, combat sports law consultant, founder of the Combat Law Sports Blog, and profoundly appreciated UGer.