Pre­vent­ing con­cus­sions should be a no-brainer

The Peterborough Examiner - - OPINION - DR. ROSANA SALVATERRA

What do Ken Dry­den and Gor­don Stringer have in com­mon? They both want ac­tion to help pre­vent con­cus­sion in­juries in all Cana­di­ans who en­gage in sports. As Ken Dry­den puts it, they want a “game change.” Both are moved by tragedies – in the case of Ken Dry­den, his re­cently re­leased book about de­fence­man Steve Mon­ta­dor is a call to ac­tion for the NHL to ban all hits to the head. For Gord, it was the tragic loss of his 17-year-old daugh­ter, Rowan Stringer, from con­cus­sion in­juries sus­tained while play­ing var­sity rugby in 2013 that has fu­elled his pas­sion to make sport safer.

I had the hon­our of serv­ing on a provin­cially ap­pointed com­mit­tee with Gord Stringer and a star-stud­ded cast of ex­perts (who knew that Eric Lin­dros was that tall?) struck with the task of re­view­ing all of the rec­om­men­da­tions of the coro­ner’s in­quest into Rowan’s death. We were to build on the changes al­ready in On­tario since Rowan’s death: in 2014 all schools were man­dated to in­tro­duce poli­cies to ad­dress con­cus­sions; and in 2016 a new Sport Recog­ni­tion Pol­icy was in­tro­duced re­quir­ing pro­vin­cial and multi-sport or­ga­ni­za­tions to main­tain a Con­cus­sion Man­age­ment and Return to Play pol­icy based on the International Con­cus­sion Con­sen­sus Guide­lines. How­ever, as we de­lib­er­ated over nine months, we found that more could be done; in fact, more needed to be done. We need a change in sports cul­ture.

Con­cus­sions are brain in­juries that are caused by ei­ther a di­rect or in­di­rect blow to the head. They cause changes in the brain’s func­tion. Be­cause they tend to be in­vis­i­ble, they can be con­cealed, es­pe­cially in a cul­ture where the em­pha­sis is on get­ting back out there and play­ing to win. Pro­tect­ing our chil­dren and ath­letes against the harm of con­cus­sions needs a shift in that cul­ture.

Rowan’s Law Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee, as we were called, has now com­pleted its work with a re­port that was in­tro­duced into the leg­is­la­ture in Septem­ber, rec­om­mend­ing that On­tario in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion that would ap­ply to all or­ga­nized ama­teur sports, whether school based or not. This law, if passed, would make it manda­tory for all sports to de­velop and ad­here to codes of con­duct with a zero tol­er­ance for any danger­ous be­hav­iour associated with caus­ing a con­cus­sion.

Play­ers, school staff, par­ents and coaches would all have to un­dergo an­nual manda­tory ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing on the pre­ven­tion, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and man­age­ment of con­cus­sions. Any­one sus­pected of sus­tain­ing a con­cus­sion would be pulled from play for im­me­di­ate screen­ing. If a con­cus­sion was sus­pected, they would be as­sessed by a qual­i­fied med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner, who would then over­see their safe return to play. In­for­ma­tion would be shared so that in­jured ath­letes could not play in an­other league or town or school un­til they were cleared. And all of this in­for­ma­tion would be col­lected in a way that we as a prov­ince could eval­u­ate our progress and de­ter­mine what fur­ther ac­tions would be needed.

As for the NHL, Ken Dry­den is call­ing on com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman to change the cul­ture and change the rules.

We owe it to the fam­i­lies of Rowan Stringer and Steve Mon­ta­dor, as well as to the all the chil­dren and young peo­ple who just want to play sports, be ac­tive, and have fun to min­i­mize the risk of con­cus­sions and make sure that they are prop­erly man­aged when they do oc­cur. My call is a call to all par­ents to set­tle for noth­ing less, and to sup­port On­tario in tak­ing bold and de­ci­sive ac­tion.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, visit­ter­bor­ough­pub­­tus-2/our-med­i­cal-of­fi­cer-of-health/

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