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Rowan's Law Day - Rugby Safety Clinic September 26, 2018

TDSB Rowan's Law Day Article - "Focus is on Safety in School Sports" by David Grossman

Read the full article below or click here 


“These sessions can only be a major success if they positively change the behavior of students playing sports.”

By David Grossman

For many students participating in sports, the reasons can be both interesting and compelling.

They say it’s all about being physically active, improving skills, having fun, and representing their high schools. Choice words but, for many, missing and shrugged off is some often repeated advice and guidance from coaches, parents, medical practitioners, among others.

It’s about competing in a safe manner to avoid debilitating traumatic injuries and to know, if injured, when to seek help and not to re-enter a game at the urging of teammates.

Never short on assisting, providing guidance and direction, the Toronto District School Board conducted a series of carefully articulated and, in some cases, graphically portrayed, sessions on concussion awareness and prevention.

More than 1,000 male and female students, representing schools from across the city, met at several locations to learn from National and Provincial Sport Organization staff, coaches, elite athletes, officials and medical staff.

Some would say it was an investment in time, but also a huge opportunity that organizers believed would lead to more awareness, minimizing risks and curtailing serious injuries.

“Study after study says kids have to be physically active in order to reach academic potential,” said George Kourtis, the TDSB’s Program Coordinator for Health and Education. “In Toronto, school sport is a priority and what we are continuing to do is focus and invest in safety, and also help identify problems as well as deal with them immediately.”

With the use of a variety of interesting theme-oriented presentations, and many with real life stories, the messages were clear, concise and focused around health and safety – topics that were compelling for hundreds of student athletes who participated in focus groups and learned of ways to participate, and tactics to use to try avoid getting hurt.

At Don Mills Collegiate, it was a day focussing on skills development for rugby players, with some of the elite from Rugby Canada staging the sessions, and making it quite clear that injuries, and particularly concussions, are things players should not ignore.

“It’s all about safety and young people need to get over the myths that injuries won’t happen to them,” said Paul Hunter, Rugby Canada’s Manager ofNational Coach Development.“Unfortunately, injuries occur, but many can be prevented. We have to use terminology that appeals to kids. Ways to elaborate about safe equipment, enforcement of rules, culture is important, too, and the need to emphasize getting injuries, when they occur, checked out quickly.”

Concussions, better described as traumatic brain injuries, were highlighted – especially outlining that they occur from a violent jolt, blow or bump to the head that causes damage to cells in the brain. Clearly outlined was the misnomer that serious injury is restricted only to participation in sports involving physical contact.

Aiofe Doyle is a 16-year old Grade 11 student and a multi-sport athlete. Artculate and having an urge to excel, she is a former Most Valuable Player award winner in rugby at Don Mills Collegiate and has played competitive hockey outside of school.

“These sessions are great – and some of the things that I saw, and heard, scared me,” said Doyle. “I thought I knew about safety, but now need to be more aware of serious issues that could happen – and, more important, when and how to get help rather than forget about things after a blow to the head.”

While most concussions are usually non-life threatening, there are cases where injuries can be severe leaving emotional, behavioral and physical concerns.

Victoria Park Collegiate’s Kevin Harricharan knows all about concussions.  “I had (a concussion) in my rookie year of playing sports – just slipped playing basketball, hit the floor, my neck snapped back and smashed my head,” recalled the 17-year old Grade 12 student. “It’s not pleasant. I thought things would get better over time, but the headaches, the ringing, I couldn’t take it and went to the hospital. That was a week after I got hurt and now I know better.”

Students were repeatedly encouraged to speak up about accidental collisions and impact to the head, along with collaborative discussions on signs and symptoms of concussion identification and diagnosis as well as the procedures for rehabilitation.

Concerned about injuries, Ajey Thevarajah is also encouraged to take part in school sports for reasons that range from staying fit to knowing he’s benefitting from safe equipment and sound coaching.

“I suffered a concussion two years ago, when a friend pushed me, I tripped and fell – but not from playing sports,” said Thevarajah, a 15-year old student at Georges Vanier Secondary. “I learned to be more careful and know to pull myself out of a game, and get checked out, if I get dizzy or think something is not right.”

Joanna Owen attends Leaside High School and is carrying on with a family tradition of playing sports, especially rugby.  “(Rugby) can be a terrifying sport to some people, but that can be said about any sport, or just slipping and falling, if you’re not safe,” said Owen, who is also captain of her school water polo squad. “When you sit in on a session like this, it can be scary, but I have learned to be even more aware than I was before, about getting help quickly – better safe than sorry.”

On the mind of Kirill Lin, a 15-year old Grade 10 student at Don Mills, is the thought of getting hurt while playing sports.  “My parents remind me all the time (about injuries), but let me make the choice,” said the Lin, who is a school rugby MVP and also a competitive acrobatic gymnast. “To me, sports and physical activity are important, stimulate me and make me want to work harder at everything. Knowing that I have safe equipment, and good coaches, makes me feel better and devote my time to learning how to excel and try void getting hurt.”


David Grossman is a multi award-winning communicator and storyteller with a distinguished career in Broadcasting, Journalism and Public Relations in Sport and Government Relations

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