The IRFU and the IRB were united in their calls for cultural change in rugby on the issue of concussion as medical experts from across world rugby came together at the IRB World Rugby Conference in London.
Player welfare is always at the forefront of the IRB and IRFU’s thinking and an esteemed panel of concussion experts took to the stage in the final plenary session of the opening day to share their thoughts on all aspects of this issue, from preventative measures, pitch side protocols and the medical research and analysis being taken to minimise the risks involved.
Dr. Willie Stewart welcomed the steps being taken, saying: “I’d like to applaud the IRB for taking the stance it has on concussion. When Martin (Raftery, IRB Chief Medical Officer) and the IRB were looking for external advisors they decided to call in people who wouldn’t necessarily tell them what they wanted to hear and who may well be critical and hopefully constructive. It was a bold step.”
Continuing the discussion, Dr. Raftery said that while still more needs to be done significant improvements have been made. “You can’t identify everyone with concussion; there is no magical test out there. What we are trying to do is as best as possible protect those athletes,” he explained.
“We’re moving from 56% of players at the professional level of the game who had a confirmed concussion returning to the field of play to 12%, after the first phase (of the Pitchside Suspected Assessment).
Rob Nichol from the International Rugby Players’ Association added: “I think when we are talking about driving cultural change you’ve got to look at the shape of the game and tackle technique and what you can do to prevent (concussion) in the first instance – what you can do to prevent getting in wrong position.”
The IRFU were represented at the conference by Dr. Rod McLoughlin, Head of Medical Services, who has called for concussion to be taken seriously at every level of the game.
“Rugby, like all contact sports, can result in injury. Potentially serious injury such as concussion must be taken seriously from the outset,” he said.
“We are adopting a zero tolerance approach to concussion or suspected concussion in an attempt to dispel the myth of a ‘knock to the head’ or a ‘minor concussion’.”
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