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Watch for youth concussions

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Approximately 40 per cent of concussions suffered by youth between the ages of 10 and 19 are caused during sporting activities.

The Durham Region Health Department is encouraging parents and coaches to recognize and prevent concussions on Rowan’s Law Day on Sept. 26.

Rowan’s Law Day was created in recognition of Rowan Stringer, a 17-year-old high school student who passed away after sustaining multiple concussions while playing rugby.

Five years after her death, Ontario passed concussion safety legislation, called “Rowan’s Law”, the first Canadian province to do so.

In contrast, all 50 U.S. states already have such laws in place. Rosalie Saynor, a public health nurse who works in the prevention of concussions, says the law brings about better protection for amateur athletes.

“The law basically is outlining mandatory requirements and will improve concussion safety,” she says.

Saynor says one of the more important aspects of the law is it will set stricter guidelines for allowing players to return to a sport after suffering a concussion. Sports organizations will also be required to create a ‘code of conduct’ specific to the treatment and prevention of concussions.

“I think it’s a great thing for our community,” Saynor states. “It becomes a part of the culture of playing any sport.”

The health department will provide support and resources to these organizations once the law is fully enacted.

“Because medical attention is required to diagnose concussions, it’s important for parents, coaches, athletes and educators to know the signs and symptoms,” she says. “Check your child’s sports equipment to ensure it fits and is right for the sport being played and encourage your child to report any head injury to a coach, adult or parent right away.” While concussion awareness is nothing new, Saynor says the law will do a lot to improve that awareness.
“I think coaches and parents will be receptive to the new law,” she says.

Symptoms of concussions include a confused, dazed or stunned feeling, forgetfulness or slowness to answer questions, clumsiness, lack of energy, nausea, headaches, dizziness or vomiting. Sensitivity to light and noise, and even a loss of consciousness can occur. However, Saynor explains that not all concussions are the same.

“They are different for everyone. There is no cookie cutter signs or symptoms.”

And it can take some time for the affects to show.

“They don’t always pop up right away. You may not see it right when they come off the field,” Saynor says.

“It can take 24 to 48 hours before you develop symptoms.”

It is also imperative to recognize that even without a direct blow to the head, a concussion can occur.

“It can happen any time there is a jar of the body. You may not even hit your head, but the fact is your brain is being rattled around your skill around skull.” Throughout this month, the health department will be sharing posts and videos. For more information on concussion recognition and prevention, visit durham.ca/concussions.