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.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

IRB Concussion Training - Where Is It?

Back in May, when the IRB introduced the new concussion regulations, it promised that training would be rolled out.

Specifically, it said in its press release, that "the supporting education programme through the IRB and Member Unions will be rolled out this year." And the regulations themselves said: 

It is recommended that coaches, team managers, administrators, teachers, parents, Players, Match Officials and Healthcare Professionals associated with Rugby teams educate themselves in the use of Pocket SCAT 2 using the IRB online training programme available through planned for release in Autumn 2011. [Emphasis added]

That was on June the 2nd. As I write this, it's November the 10th; give or take five and half months later. Autumn's over. It's winter in the Northern Hemisphere now.

There's been a lot of water under the bridge since then, most of it covered here. There have been the Berrick Barnes incidents, and Benson Stanley having to take an indefinite break from the game; the Will Genia incidents in the 3N; and Morgan Parra in the final of the RWC itself. Concussion, so far from going away, has kept itself in the light, even while tip-tackles have been doing their best to hog lead billing.

So, one would have thought that we'd have had the promised training by now; all the more so as the NZRU, the leaders in this, have training online, and are - and I state this from personal experience - wonderfully supportive in the way they allow the use of their materials of anyone trying to make the game safer worldwide. The training could, probably should, have been available straight away on that model.

And yet, we have nothing from the IRB. Some unions do it right - the 3N unions, and the RFU. Some don't seem to bother at all - and in this category, I'm sorry to say, belongs the IRFU. And between them, and the IRB, there are large areas of the game where there has been no training at all in the use of the concussion management protocols that are meant to protect the players in those areas.

This is a rule introduced into the game for player safety. Players have a right to expect that referees and other officials in the game will enforce those rules; and if they aren't then liability for any injuries arising from that failure becomes a very live issue (Vowles v. Evans, WRU & Ors).

Yet, six months after this rule for player safety was introduced, there is still nothing being done to make sure it's enforced, or that those tasked with enforcing it have even a notion what it involves. It's like changing the engage process in scrums to make them safer, not telling referees what the changes are or how to apply them, leaving them to get on with it, and somehow expecting that things will magically work out fine. And that, by the way, assumes referees are even told about the existence or requirement to apply the concussion regulations at all; if the referees aren't being told about, or to follow, the regulations then the union that fails to tell them is definitely smack-bang in the lawyers' crosshairs.

Back in May, the head of the IRB, Bernard Laplasset, said, "The safety and welfare of players is of paramount concern to the IRB and its Member Unions. At the inaugural IRB Medical Conference we identified concussion as a key priority for the Game."

So, would it really be too much to ask for that they would act on that fine sentiment, and produce the training to allow officials to keep players safe?

Update; it's now up - but you have to log in to look at it! I'll deal with it in THIS post.


  1. I sent over a set of concussion info pieces to a NorCal Youth Rugby coach. He immediately dismissed them, and told me concussions are "Football's problem" and rugby has less collisions. Sadly, it'll take one kid to become serious injured before the leagues do a damn thing.

  2. Kevin - ask him if he thinks Eduard Coetzee thinks the same - And then show him the tables in Boksmart that show it's the highest killer in SA Rugby.