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The International Rugby Board's first ever conference on the subject of player welfare closed on Wednesday evening (Sept 10) at the Westbury Hotel, Dublin, following two days of intensive presentation and debate amongst a group of leading sports clinicians, elite players and top rugby administrators from across the globe.

The conference was the result of initiatives taken by the IRB in conjunction with its Medical Advisory Committee and following consultation with Players' Associations.

The central themes of the conference were player management, including rest, recovery and protection; the reduction of injury trends; player contracts; the overall welfare of players and their families; and the maintenance of fitness.

The emerging conclusions from the conference included the importance of having first class global data collection, collation and monitoring.

Other recommendations were:That players have 4 weeks continuous holiday/leave/active rest per year.That the pre-season (non-game) period which should follow holiday/leave be 8-10 weeks. It is recognised that there are constraints which may apply to individual Unions.That normally there should be no more than 1 game per week.That for the elite professional player - Monitoring be incorporated so that the welfare of the player be proactively managed.- This would take into account player response to training, game type, travel, etc.- Appropriate active rest periods to be considered 1-2 times per year to best maintain the health of the athlete.

It was recognised that were certain factors that impacted on the fulfilment of these aspirations such as: - a lack of definitive research; the circumstances of individual Unions; current commercial arrangements; competition structures.

A detailed report of the conference and its findings will be considered by the Medical Advisory Committee whose recommendations will be put before the IRB Council in November.

The conference was facilitated by Nigel Henderson who is a Consultant Orthopaedic and Spinal Surgeon at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, and who has been Honorary Surgical Advisor to the Rugby Football Union for the last ten years.

Dr. Sid Millar, Chairman of the IRB Technical Committee, said: "Nothing is more important to the future of the professional game then the health, welfare and security of our players. Rugby has become an increasingly demanding sport, and not just in physical terms.""Reconciliation of the needs of the players with the needs of the game is a matter of the greatest importance, and this conference has made a huge and positive contribution to that process.",br>"On behalf of the Board I would like to extend thanks to all who have attended and who have taken part, especially to those who have travelled across the world in order to participate."

Attendees and Presenters included:Dr. John Best Team Physician, Sports Medicine, Wallabies (Dr. Best has published research on injuries amongst elite players). Tony Dempsey CEO Rugby Players Union Association (Australia) and Chairman International Rugby Players Association. Gilbert Enoke Sports Psychologist, New Zealand's national rugby & cricket teams. Nigel Henderson Consultant Orthopaedic & Spinal Surgeon, Stoke Mandeville, and Honorary Surgical Advisor to the Rugby Football Union. Daniel Herbert Player - Australia. Dr. Ismail Jakoet Physician and Director of Medical Care, South African Rugby Football.

Dr.John Mayhew Full-time sports medicine physician, New Zealand Rugby Football Union for the last fourteen years. John Mitchell Coach - New Zealand. John O'Neill Chief Executive Australia Rugby Union. Eddie O'Sullivan Coach - Ireland. Rian Oberholzer Managing Director, SA Rugby. Ken Quarrie New Zealand Rugby Football Union. (Mr. Quarrie, who has a Masters Degree in epidemiology). Scott Quinnell Player - Wales & British & Irish Lions. Chris Spice Performance Director, Rugby Football Union. Jim Telfer Director of Rugby, Scottish Rugby Union. Dr. Arja Uusitalo Sports Physician and epidemionogist(Dr. Uusitalo has made a particular study of player management). Cobus Visage Player - South Africa. Prof Clyde Williams Professor of Sports Science, Loughborough University. Dr. Preston Wiley Sports Medicine Physician and Associate Professor at the Department of Kinesiology at theUniversity of Calgary. (Dr. Wiley is a full-time sports medicine physician and is consulting physician to the Canadian national team as well a Chairman of the Medical Science Committee of Rugby Canada).
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