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IRB calling for Six Nations to adopt concussion protocols

The world rugby body points out that their pitch-side assessments have reduced dangerous incidents in this area.

The calls for the Six Nations to get on board are continuing.
The calls for the Six Nations to get on board are continuing.
Image: ©INPHO/Colm O'Neill

THE INTERNATIONAL RUGBY Board (IRB) says it is maintaining pressure on the Six Nations to adopt its Pitch-side Suspected Concussion Assessment (PSCA) protocol.

The 2013 Six Nations tournament did not operate under the IRB’s ongoing trial process of removing players suspected of concussion from the field of play for five minutes in order to carry out a range of tests to determine if that player should be allowed to continue.

IRB Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Martin Raftery, this morning highlighted the fact that there is still much research to be done to ensure best practice in the area of concussion in rugby, but highlighted that the current trial protocols have reduced the number of concussed players being allowed to continue on the field of play.

Before the PSCA was introduced, 56% of confirmed concussions had not resulted in players being removed from the field of play, according to the IRB’s figures. However, with the introduction of the PSCA to many of the world’s biggest tournaments in the last year, that number has dropped to 13%.

The IRB says they are continuing to study the links between head injuries in sport and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), as well as stating their intention to extend the current trial period of the PSCA for another 12 months.

Speaking at the IRB World Rugby Conference in Dublin, Raftery said the global body “recognise that concussion is a big issue” in the game and that prevention, education and management of head injuries are of utmost importance. However, he also highlighted the fact that all parties across the world of rugby needed to be on board.

imageGeorge Smith played on after suffering an obvious concussion against the Lions, but the IRB says instances like that have been greatly reduced. David Davies/PA Archive/Press Association Images.

The RaboDirect Pro12 is another competition that has not adopted the PSCA protocols and the IRB’s CEO, Brett Gosper, stated that there will be continuing pressure to get 100% consensus that this is the best route forward.

“We believe in it so much that we do put pressure on unions that we feel are a bit shaky on it. So we are putting as much pressure as we can, but at the end of the day it is a trial and there is the possibility of certain organizations opting out if they feel differently.

Our belief is that this is a very strong process and that the overwhelming support of the majority of competitions and unions is behind that. There are exceptions unfortunately. We’re certainly putting pressure on the Six Nations that this its the right process and they should adopt that approach. We believe that’s the view of the vast majority.”

Rob Nichol, chief executive of the International Rugby Players’ Association, also added to the calls for all parties to adopt the PSCA trial.

“From a player’s point of view, I think we know where this is going. We have got the next couple of days at the IRB Medical Commission to bring people up to speed. Hopefully they might jump on board the boat and get constructive in doing the right thing.

“The direction I can sense this going in is that you’ll be leaving yourselves out on a limb and significantly exposed if you don’t get on the boat. From a player welfare perspective, we would expect most people in positions of governance, with influence, to be doing the right thing.”

Referring to the need for education across all areas of the game on concussion, Nichol said: “We need to set an example, and it doesn’t just apply to rugby.”

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Murray Kinsella

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