Canadian Underwriter

Proposed “concussion code of conduct” could help sports insurers

February 22, 2018   by Canadian Underwriter

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Legislation that would require a “concussion code of conduct” for amateur sports organizations in Ontario will be the subject to public hearings next week.

If passed into law, Bill 193 will “be a catalyst for longer-term culture change for concussion management and injury prevention,” Ontario minister of tourism, culture and sport Daiene Vernile said Tuesday at Queen’s Park in Toronto. Bill 193 passed second reading Wednesday and has been referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy.

Sports insurers “charge a higher rate for sports that are more prone to concussion,” according to an earlier CIP Society paper published by the Insurance Institute of Canada.

The cost of treating concussions tends to “mount up during the rehabilitation phase, where physiotherapy is required,” Indrani Nadarajah wrote in the CIP Society paper, titled Insurance in the World of Sports.

Concussion injuries have given rise to lawsuits in the past.

Canadian tennis star Eugenie Bouchard, for example, is suing the United States Tennis Association, alleging she suffered a concussion after slipping and falling on a wet locker room floor at the U.S. Open in 2015, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. Bouchard testified Wednesday in a New York city court.

On this side of the border, former Canadian Football League player Arland Bruce filed a lawsuit in 2014, alleging some teams permitted him to play despite the fact the Bruce had signs of concussion. Bruce’s lawsuit was dismissed in 2016 by the British Columbia Supreme Court, which ruled that because Arland belonged to a union, the issue of football player safety should be dealt with through the labour grievance and arbitration process, not the courts. That ruling was upheld in 2017 by the B.C. Court of Appeal. Arland had played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Toronto Argonauts, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, B.C. Lions and Montréal Alouettes.

Ontario Bill 193 is known as Rowan’s Law, after Rowan Stringer, an Ottawa-area girl who died in 2013 at the age of 17 as a result of head injuries suffered while playing high school rugby.

If passed into law Bill 193 would require organizations that carry out amateur competitive sports “for profit or otherwise” to have a “concussion code of conduct” and to have a rule to remove players suspected of having of having sustained a concussion.

“Concussions are a significant public health issue in our country and in our province” neurosurgery professor Dr. Charles Tator told an Ontario legislative committee in 2016. “It’s the jiggle of the brain within the skull that causes concussion. That’s precisely why helmets don’t protect against concussion, because the brain still jiggles, and no one has created a helmet that prevents that jiggle.”

Dr. Tator made his comments during hearings on Bill 149, the Rowan’s Law Advisory Committee Act, which has been passed into law. That bill appointed a committee to review recommendations from a coroner’s jury convened after Stringer died.

In 2013, Stringer was “hit twice in a game a week before her final game and likely suffered concussions each time,” Vernile told the legislature Feb. 20, 2018. “Before the previous injury had a chance to heal, the second injury caused catastrophic swelling to Rowan’s brain, a condition referred to as second-impact syndrome.”