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Personal Injury

Concussion legislation a good ‘first step’

New legislation to protect athletes from concussions is a good first step, but more must be done to ensure parents and teachers understand the signs, symptoms and risks of concussions, Toronto personal injury lawyer Alison Burrison tells The Lawyer’s Daily.

“As a personal injury lawyer, I know the symptoms and I know what to look for if a client is calling me and says they have these symptoms,” says Burrison, a partner with McLeish Orlando LLP.

Bill 193 — known as Rowan's Law — was introduced in December and proposes a yearly review of concussion awareness resources, which athletes, coaches, educators and parents would be obligated to read before registering in a sport, the article notes.

“This is something that’s really important for amateur athletes, educators, for people that are doing gym classes, for the parents [to know],” Burrison says. 

She tells the online legal website that it’s particularly vital for new immigrants who have children enrolled in sporting activities; "People who don’t have English as their first language and they don’t have any experience with concussions or understanding them. This is a really good first step to say ‘if your child is going to be participating in a sport, here’s what you need to know,’” Burrison says. 

She adds that codes of conduct around concussions should be compulsory in all schools and that parents and teachers should offer seminars to explain the signs and symptoms of head injuries. 

"In order to sign up their child for a sport they might tick that they read it [an awareness resource], and they might not truly understand,” Burrison explains.

“We’re dealing with a lot of new immigrants and in order to sign up their child for a sport they might tick that they read it [an awareness resource], and they might not truly understand,” she says.

“Most children come back from, say, hockey practice in a carpool. So someone drops them off, and over the next week they [parents] might not fully understand what symptoms they’re supposed to be looking for — the dizziness, the vomiting, the headaches. And then put them back on the rink the next week without truly understanding that the child might have suffered a concussion.”

The article references government studies that show more than 20 per cent of Ontario students have reported being rendered unconscious or taken to hospital with a head injury and that across the country, 39 per cent of young people have been diagnosed with concussions after a sports-related head injury, with 24 per cent being diagnosed with possible concussions.

Given that many educators must take on the role of gym teacher, Burrison says they need to be aware of concussion symptoms. 

“They need to know exactly what they’re looking for when a child looks like they’ve been concussed,” she says, adding that more dedicated concussion clinics need to be established to assist in treatment and monitoring after an athlete sustains an injury.

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