Canada needs unified concussion policies, federal sport minister says after meetings in Lethbridge

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Canada’s minister of sport isn’t ruling out federal concussion legislation in the future, but says it’s more important for now to come up with a unified concussion policy for the country.

Ontario passed Canada’s first concussion-related law earlier this week. Rowan’s Law is named after 17-year-old Rowan Stringer of Ottawa, who died after suffering multiple concussions playing high school rugby.

The inquest into the teen’s death produced recommendations that were incorporated into the provincial legislation.

Sport minister Carla Qualtrough concluded two days of meetings with provincial and territorial counterparts Thursday in Lethbridge, Alta., by stating there is a need for a strong, consistent approach to concussion prevention and management across the country.

“Some sports are ahead of the curve on this and some aren’t,” Qualtrough told The Canadian Press. “The federal government needed to exert some leadership. I think that we have.

“Part of the leadership we can give from a government side is to help and steer the discussion and steer the issue in the same direction.”

“We have tasked officials to work together and bring to us next year at our meeting a harmonized approach to concussions.”

‘Collaborative and co-ordinated approach’

Federal law similar to Ontario’s is “not off the table for sure,” Qualtrough said.

“We may end up there. I think right now we’re looking at a policy approach,” she continued.

“Given the realities of federal jurisdiction and the limits that a federal law would have, a more collaborative and co-ordinated approach is probably going to get the better buy-in from the sport stakeholders and from governments.”

Quebec is expected to announce concussion protocols this year based on 40 recommendations made by a committee studying the issue.

According to the Canadian injury-prevention organization Parachute, 40 per cent of head injuries in children aged 10 to 19 occur during sports.

The Liberal government’s March budget provided $1.4 million for the Public Health Agency of Canada to “harmonize concussion management guidelines across Canada.”

‘Shift in sport culture’

Kamal Khera, the Ministry of Health’s parliamentary secretary, accompanied Qualtrough to the Lethbridge meetings.

The ministers want to co-ordinate efforts of government and stakeholders in sport, recreation, education and health in concussion awareness, prevention, detection, management and surveillance.

The development of return-to-learn and return-to-play protocols is also included in the mission.

“It’s about a shift in sport culture,” Qualtrough said. “It’s about how parents, coaches, organizations and athletes look at this very significant public health concern.

“We need to take the time to get this right. We need to make sure we’re doing right by Canadians and right by our kids.

“I was an athlete, but I am a mom. I have young kids and older kids and I want them to participate safely in sport with their friends.”

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Canada needs unified concussion policies, federal sport minister says after meetings in Lethbridge

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