Until recently, many concussions caused by a blow to the head were categorized as “mild” traumatic brain injuries. Not long ago, such injuries weren’t considered serious as long as there wasn’t other signs of trauma (i.e. loss of consciousness or motor incoordination). Kids and young athletes simply resumed their normal activities, returned to the hockey or soccer they were playing, or went back to class.
Recent research, however, has brought to everyone’s attention that there’s nothing “mild” about concussions. Concussions of all types are traumatic brain injuries and although observable signs of trauma can be brief or even absent, proper diagnosis and care is critical to prevent or minimize long term health issues.
In recognition of the above, legislation (Bill 39) is awaiting 2nd reading in the Ontario Legislature to make it law for school boards to comply with policies and guidelines respecting the care and management of head injuries and concussions in pupils.
Although it’s widely recognized that such guidelines and policies are necessary, the legal implications of these measures are yet to be seen. For example, what is the liability of school boards or hockey associations if these groups adopt such guidelines but they are not properly followed? Proper implementation, including training and supervision, will be needed to ensure everyone—young athletes, their coaches, trainers, teachers, etc. all receive risk protection from potentially serious consequences, in terms of health as well as legal liability.