Ensuring the Safety of our Student Athletes

School sports are important to so many students and families across our province. From the rewarding elements such as learning teamwork and healthy competition to the impact scholarships and hard work have on students moving into post-secondary. This especially came to the forefront when the question of the safety of Rugby came into question some months ago.

There are many aspects of school sports that affect so many people. That’s why we want to make sure that when playing these sports, students are playing within the highest possible standards of safety. We want all students to be able to take part and receive the valuable experiences that come with playing sports.

With that in mind, an expert panel has been invited to advise Zach Churchill, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, on safety in school sports across the province.

The panel will provide advice on ways to prevent and reduce injuries, including head injuries, in school sports. The group will also look at strategies to promote safety and injury prevention.

The panel will review practices and policies in coaching and training and protocols on preventing injuries. They will also examine legislation, policies and practices from other areas related to injuries, including concussions. They have already met for two days and will meet twice more this summer. The group has been asked to report back by Aug. 31.

The panel includes government, provincial and national sport organizations, medical experts and athlete representatives.

The 17-member Inter-School Sport Safety Review Panel includes:

— Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health
— Sue Taylor-Foley, executive director, education innovation, programs and services, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
— Michelle Aucoin, director, provincial services, Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage
— Jamie Ferguson, CEO, Sport Nova Scotia
— Karen Furneaux, athlete representative
— Dr. John Gillis, emergency physician
— Jennifer Heatley, project executive, health promotion, Department of Health and Wellness
— Paul Hunter, director of development, Rugby Canada
— Dave Jones, regional executive director, Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education
— Stephen MacNeil, chair, board of governors, Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation (NSSAF)
— David Napier, president, Basketball Nova Scotia
— Gerry Post, executive director, Accessibility Directorate
— Jennifer Russell, executive director, Atlantic Collaborative on Injury Prevention
— Lori Sigfridson, Tri-County Regional Centre for Education and president, Physical and Health Education Canada
— Shaquille Smith, athlete representative
— Carolyn Townsend, director, communications and strategic relations, Sport Nova Scotia
— Amy Walsh, executive director, Hockey Nova Scotia

The department and NSSAF began work in the spring on a plan to help student-athletes continue playing rugby safely. The plan includes a review of safety in school sports.

We believe that through the work of this expert panel, we can help ensure students are able to experience school sports safely, and reap all the rewards that playing sports brings.