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What Are Canada’s Laws Regarding Athletes and Head Injuries?

Published on Jul 11, 2019 at 2:14 pm in Brain Injury.

Scans of a human brain

As any athlete will tell you, injuries are typically a part of participating in any sport. They can happen during practice, at a training facility, in a school gym, or on the field or court. While the majority of injuries can be easily treated, there are those, like concussions, that can compromise an athlete’s ability to function or be life-threatening.

High-impact sports like football and hockey can easily result in a concussion if a player sustains a blow to the head. Even a minor hit can be enough to cause the brain to make contact with the skull. It’s important for athletes, coaches, and others to be aware of concussions and their impact. While there aren’t many Canadian laws regarding athletes and head injuries in British Columbia, there are some regarding youth sports.

Concussions in Youth Sports

According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, young athletes are the most susceptible to concussions. The majority of sport-related head injuries happens in individuals younger than 20 years of age. In response to the increased danger, the Concussions in Youth Sports Safety Act was established in 2011.

The Act recognizes the importance of protecting young brains, so a multi-part process was established for coaches, parents, and athletes to follow. The following is enforced by the Lieutenant Governor in Council:

  • Youth sports organizations are required to adopt or develop guidelines that can be used to educate coaches, athletes, and their parents or guardians of the risks of a head injury, including the dangers of continuing to play after sustaining a concussion.
  • A concussion and head injury information sheet has to be signed on a yearly basis by the youth athlete and their parent/guardian prior to the initial practice or competition in a high-risk sport.
  • If it’s suspected a child has sustained a concussion or head injury while participating in a sport, they must be moved from the competition or practice immediately.
  • Once the athlete has been removed from play, they are not allowed to return until they’ve been evaluated by a licensed health care professional who is trained in evaluating and managing concussions. Once the health care professional has cleared them, they can return to the game.

Safety and Injury Prevention Resources

While there are currently no other laws pertaining to concussions in sports in British Columbia, there are a number of safety and injury prevention resources for all ages. BC recognizes the health and social benefits that come from playing a sport. The goal of their resources is to create a safer environment for all athletes. The resources that apply to concussion prevention and treatment include the following:

  • Safety and Recreation Injury Prevention. This program encourages athletes to learn about the risks involved in their sports, how to manage those risks, and how to make healthy choices to prevent injury. They provide the Physical Activity Line, which is a free counseling service for British Columbians that provides information about exercise and fitness, regardless of age or health status.
  • CATT Online – Concussion Awareness Training Tool. CATT Online was developed by the BC Injury and Prevention Unit. They partnered with BC Government, BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, Child Health BC, and others to provide free resources for parents, coaches, educators, players, and health professionals on how to manage sport-related concussions.
  • Active & Safe Central. This resource is for youth and adults who engage in sport and recreational activities. Developed by the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit, Active & Safe Central provides information on common injuries, risk factors, and injury prevention for typical activities.
  • SportMedBC. This is a professional nonprofit society that promotes leadership, public awareness, and education in the areas of sport training, science, and medicine. While they provide education on a number of areas, they have a focus on injury prevention and treatment.

The Need for More Concussion Laws in British Columbia

While the laws focusing on youth concussions are important, it’s crucial to note the lack of laws and regulations protecting professional athletes. While steps have been taken to improve and standardize concussion education and care, there are currently no laws that exist to protect adult athletes when they sustain a sports-related concussion. Because of this, teams and coaches are not always as cautious as they should be when it comes to protecting players from head injuries.

When an athlete sustains repeated concussions over time, they are at a greater risk for serious condition. In order to pay for medical bills and to promote change in the sports community, injured athletes can take legal action. At Wishart Brain & Spine Law, our lawyers present those looking to file concussion-related claims. Contact us for more information.

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