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Mind Over Matter


Last week, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario enacted a new law concerning concussion safety for organisations engaged in amateur competitive sport.

Known as Rowan’s Law, the legislation requires all amateur sports associations, clubs and school teams to immediately remove from play any athlete suspected of suffering a concussion. They are only allowed to return to play after following a supervised protocol that ensures they have fully recovered. The measures are intended to forestall “second-impact syndrome,” a condition brought on when a person suffers a new concussion while still recovering from an existing one.

The law also mandates training on concussion management for athletes, coaches and parents, and an annual review to ensure awareness materials are up to date.

In New Zealand, it’s reported that over the period 2001–2011 there were nearly 21,000 sport- related concussion claims from seven sports codes in New Zealand. The number of unreported concussions (for which medical attention is not immediately required or sought), is considerably higher.

Particularly in teenage and young adult age groups, medical research is increasingly available measuring the impact of unreported concussion on the brains of youth and adolescent athletes.

For example, one study notes, “concussions can affect short-term memory in adolescents, which is essential for reading and calculating, and those effects can last for six months or longer”.

The New Zealand Amateur Sport Association Inc. (the Association) acknowledges that many sporting codes in this country are now adopting voluntary concussion management policies, with the focus of these policies progressively moving from protecting elite participants to protecting amateur participants, particularly youth.

The Association recommends that all sporting clubs and codes in New Zealand adopt a framework which is similar in effect and reach to Rowan’s Law, given the concussion risks borne by all sportspeople when competing as amateurs.

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