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Rowan’s Law

Rowan’s Law was named for Rowan Stringer, a 17-year-old high school rugby player from Ottawa who died tragically in 2013 from a condition known as “second impact syndrome”.  After suffering an initial concussion, Rowan continued to play rugby and eventually suffered 2 more concussions over several days.   The second injury to her brain, which was still unhealed from the first 2 concussions, caused catastrophic swelling.  At the time, neither her coaches, teachers, nor parents knew her brain needed time to heal after the initial injury.  The last Wednesday in September is Rowan’s Law Day, to honour her memory and raise awareness surrounding concussions and concussion safety.

A concussion occurs when the brain suddenly and forcefully bounces back and forth against the inside of the skull causing micro trauma that cannot be seen.  Most people would be surprised to learn you do not even have to hit your head to suffer a concussion.  For example, whiplash without head impact can still cause a concussion to the brain.

Symptoms of a concussion include but are not limited to:

  • Headaches
  • Pressure in the head
  • Balance problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light/noise
  • Fatigue/low energy
  • Neck pain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering

Often, when recovery from a concussion is slow, it can be because the neck injury has not been addressed.

How can Physiotherapy and Chiropractic help?

Physiotherapists and chiropractors are experts at assessing and treating the neck.  In cases of concussion, particularly in younger children, we ensure that this is done with a very gentle approach.  We also provide treatment in the form of retraining the vestibular system (the inner ear balance system), performing manual therapy on the neck, providing injury specific exercises, and providing education regarding concussion management and eventual return to activity/sport.

How can you help yourself or your child?

We’ve all heard the slogan “when in doubt, sit them out”.  A break from physical activity post-concussion is common practice today.  What is often overlooked is that in order for the brain to heal properly and quickly, mental rest is also essential.  This means a break from work, school, homework, reading, and especially screens which can be overstimulating when the brain is first starting to heal.  This is difficult for adults and children alike as it is very boring!  But it is also very important!  If a return to any of these activities causes symptoms such as headache, dizziness or nausea to return, then more rest is necessary.

If a concussion is suspected, sit out – physically and mentally.  See your physician and have an assessment by a chiropractor and/or physiotherapist early on to guide you through recovery to safely return to activity.

By: Maryann Fabrizio, Registered Physiotherapist