Canada: Legislature Passes Concussion Safety Legislation With Bill 193: Rowan's Law (Concussion Safety), 2018

Last Updated: March 8 2018
Article by James Tomlinson

On March 6, 2018, Bill 193: Rowan's Law (Concussion Safety), 2018 ("Rowan's Law") passed its third reading. The Bill will next go before the Lieutenant Governor to receive Royal Assent.

Rowan's Law is named for Rowan Stringer, a 17-year-old rugby player who died after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in a rugby game. The Bill will come into force on the day it receives Royal Assent, although this day has not been announced (section 9(1)). There are indications that section 5 (which declares the last Wednesday in September as "Rowan's Law Day") comes into force as soon as the Bill receives Royal Assent. The other sections will "come into force on a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor" (section 9(2)).

Overall, Rowan's Law is intended to serve as "broad framework legislation" for concussion management and prevention in amateur competitive sport. The legislation will apply to any "sport organization", defined as "a person or entity that carries out, for profit or otherwise, a prescribed activity in connection with an amateur competitive sport" (section 1). A "sport organization", which may be further defined by regulation, will be required to:

  • Ensure individual athletes have reviewed "concussion awareness resources" in the twelve months prior to registering with the "sport organization" (section 2(1)). "Concussion awareness resources" will be those resources approved by the Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport (section 1). If the individual athlete is under a prescribed age, then they must also give confirmation that they have reviewed these resources (section 2(2)).
  • Create and implement a concussion code of conduct, the requirements of which will be further prescribed by regulation (section 3(1)). Similar to section 2, a "sport organization" must confirm that individual athletes have reviewed their concussion code of conduct in the twelve months prior to registration (section 3(2)). Furthermore, individual athletes under a prescribed age must give confirmation that they have reviewed the code of conduct (section 3(3)).
  • Establish a removal-from-sport protocol that includes a specific process for "immediate removal of an athlete who is suspected of having sustained a concussion" (section 4(1)(a)) and designate "persons" responsible for implementing the protocol (section 4(1)(b)). Further responsibilities of other "persons" and further requirements for this protocol may be prescribed in the future (sections 4(1)(c) and (d)).
  • Establish a return-to-sport protocol that includes a specific process for "return of an athlete to training, practice or competition after the athlete has sustained a concussion or is suspected of having sustained a concussion" (section 4(2)(b)). Similar to section 4(1)(b), there must be designated "persons" responsible for returning athletes to the sport (section 4(2)(c)). Further responsibilities of other "persons" and further requirements for this protocol may also be prescribed (sections 4(2)(d) and (e)).

Coaches of a "sport organization" will be required to review "concussion awareness resources" and the concussion code of conduct for their organization on an annual basis (sections 2(4) and 3(5)). Parents and guardians of athletes under 18 (or another age that may be prescribed) will also have to confirm that they have reviewed the "concussion awareness resources" and the concussion code of conduct for each "sport organization" in which the athletes under their care are registered (sections 2(3) and 3(4)).

Coaches, parents, and guardians should know about the passing of Rowan's Law and the responsibilities that will be imposed by the legislation, namely to review "concussion awareness resources" and concussion codes of conduct.

Similarly, sport organizations (generally speaking) should know about the passing of Rowan's Law and monitor the coming into force of its sections and any associated regulations. Steps should be taken to develop a concussion code of conduct, as well protocols for removal-from-sport and return-to-sport. Sport organizations who already have concussion codes of conduct and protocols in place should undertake a review of same to ensure compliance with Rowan's Law.

In addition, insurers of sport organizations and individuals (such as coaches, parents, and guardians) should be aware of the insurance-related issues that Rowan's Law may potentially create. The legislation, along with any associated regulations, will impact on the risks that insurers may be asked to underwrite and the claims that may arise from sport-related injuries in amateur competitive sports.

We will continue to monitor the status of Rowan's Law and provide updates as the sections and any associated regulations come into force.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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