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Ottawa school board to review teen rugby player's death

05/14/2013 11:15 EDT | Updated 07/14/2013 05:12 EDT
The death of an Ottawa teen who suffered a severe head injury during a rugby game last week will be reviewed to see if any safety measures can be improved, according to the head of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.

Jennifer Adams, who's with the OCDSB, said the board's coaches take precautions to ensure student athletes aren't playing with injuries, but those precautions would be reviewed following the death of John McCrae Secondary School student Rowan Stringer.

Stringer, 17, was captain of the school's girls' rugby team this year, and also played with a Barrhaven rugby club.

She was tackled hard during a game last Wednesday, flew through the air, and hit her head and neck on the ground, according to her father, Gordon Stringer. Rowan stayed awake for a few moments after sitting up, then slipped into unconsciousness and never woke up.

She died on Sunday night after her family decided to discontinue life support the previous day.

2 earlier head injuries

Stringer's parents said Rowan told them she had been hit in the head in a game a week before the fatal tackle, and that she took a pain reliever afterward for a headache.

Then, just two days before the fatal injury, she was hit in the head during a game once more, her parents said. This time, she told her friends about it, but didn't tell her parents.

The Stringers said doctors are looking into the possibility that Rowan suffered a smaller head injury that could have contributed to the severity of the second.

The family authorized an autopsy to find out more about what happened to Rowan.

"If they can nail down a little bit more of what actually was going on during those first days… then they'll have a better idea in the future what to look for," said Gordon Stringer.

Coaches trained to ask questions after injuries

Adams said she couldn't say if Stringer's coaches asked Rowan about any injuries, but she said coaches are trained to watch for signs.

"Our coaches are involved in safety courses that teach them to be asking those types of questions, and we certainly focus on that aspect of safety in our schools," Adams said.

The game was stopped after the injury.

No sports were played at John McCrae on Monday and have also been cancelled for Tuesday as well, according to the school board.

Teen had been accepted into nursing program

Rowan's family members decided to honour their daughter's wish to donate her organs, partly because of her interest in nursing and helping children. She had been accepted into the University of Ottawa's nursing program.

Her lungs were sent to help a 20-year-old woman in Toronto, Rowan's father said.

Her kidneys went to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Her pancreas was also sent to Toronto.

"Then we turned our whole focus to her wish of helping others," said her father.

"It was no longer how hard it was on us. Her liver went to London and her heart stayed here in Ottawa," he said.

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