In 1823, William Webb Ellis first picked up the ball in his arms and ran with it. And for the next 156 years forwards have been trying to work out why. - Tasker Watkins VC, LJ.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Concussion guidelines

Apologies for the lag, as it's been a bit busy of late. There's a lot to deal with, as a result.

First, and most recent, I want to touch on concussion. I was lecturing on this back in April, saying that when you looked at the way it's managed in the Boksmart and Rugbysmart programs, it was inexplicable how so potentially dangerous an injury seemed to be more or less ignored in this part of the world.

I'm glad to see the International Rugby Board would seem to agree. They've just introduced new concussion guidelines, more or less identical with those in the Boksmart program (the comment about duty of care is interesting, and it's one I'll hope to return to).

It's no wonder, and it's about time. Concussion kills; in the injuries tables on the Boksmart program, head and concussion injuries come up as one of the leading killers of rugby players at all levels. The evidence of how this proper side-line management helps manage concussion in rugby so much better has been there, properly researched, since at least 2007, and the RugbySmart concussion program since before this.

There remains another, perhaps more worrying mystery. The information and policies that would allow any rugby union to have proper concussion management practices have been there, ready to cut-and-paste, on the websites of at least two unions for a good few years now. Those policies don't require insanely high standards, or a neurologist at every pitch-side; but they're reasonable proper practice, such as having SCAT cards available to allow properly trained club officials to assess players and prevent them hurting themselves.

There was and is no reason why those policies should not have been introduced world-wide as soon as they came out - if not by the IRB, then at least by the individual unions aiming to protect their players.

But, despite it being necessary, reasonable and easy, they weren't. Which begs two questions; first, why not? Secondly; how many players have been injured as a result of this breach of duty by the unions?

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