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IRB extend pitch-side concussion tests to 10 minutes in drive for 'cultural change'

The memory and balance sections of the PSCA will also be expanded from the 1st of June.

Florian Fritz was allowed to return to the field after being knocked out in a Top 14 barrages match.
Florian Fritz was allowed to return to the field after being knocked out in a Top 14 barrages match.

THE IRB HAS announced that their Pitch-side Suspected Concussion Assessments [PSCA] will be increased to 10 minutes.

That represents a 100% rise on the five minutes that are currently allowed for team doctors to make a judgement on whether a player has sustained concussion.

International rugby’s governing body has also revealed that two specific sections of the PSCA tool have been expanded for the elite game, with the memory test being “strengthened” and the balance examination “altered”.

The IRB Executive Committee felt that those increased demands on medical practitioners called for more time, and have thereby approved a period of 10 minutes. The new trial will kick in from the 1st of June.

Among the latest information distributed by the IRB is a timely reminder that the PSCA tool should not be used when signs of concussion are clear and obvious.

If symptoms are evident the message remains recognise and permanently remove the player – the PSCA tool should not be used,” reads a statement from the rugby organisation.

The recent incident involving Toulouse’s Florian Fritz in the Top 14 knock-out stages brought the issue of concussion sharply back into focus, and served as a reminder that rugby needs to remain vigilant around head injuries.

Source: TheNPC2012/YouTube

The IRB and Fédération Française de Rugby [FFR] requested a report into that “apparent failure to apply the IRB head-injury protocols” in the game against Racing Métro, although there has been no indication of any punishment yet.

Doubts over and opposition to the PSCA remain in some quarters, but the IRB says that the research it has commissioned shows there has been a drop in the number of concussed players returning to the field of play.

A study accepted by the British Journal of Sports Medicine claims that before the PSCA, 56% of players assessed and left to play on were later determined to have suffered a concussion.

Under the PSCA protocols, which began in 2012, the IRB says that figure has reduced to 13%.

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Murray Kinsella

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