IRB Establishes Team Of Brain Experts

Rugby Authority Hopes To Increase Its Understanding Of Long-Term Brain Injuries


The International Rugby Board (IRB) is hoping to increase its understanding of the long-term impacts of head injuries by putting together a team of brain experts.

There has been a great deal of debate about concussion in sport in recent months and rugby authorities have come under increasing pressure to offer more protection to players.

According to the Mail on Sunday, the IRB has approached several global brain specialists in order to get a better idea of how concussions can affect people in the future.

Studies conducted in the US in 2013 highlighted a link between head injuries and long-term neurological problems among American football players.
The National Football League has faced legal proceedings from former footballers and their families.

In the UK, a Pitch Side Concussion Assessment (PSCA) trial was introduced in rugby, which gave medical staff a five-minute period to assess the wellbeing of a player who had suffered a head injury.

Although the IRB insisted this adhered to the recommendations laid out in the Zurich Consensus on Concussion in Sport - a paper put together by a team of expert medics - critics have claimed the system is not sufficient.

Some brain injury specialists have suggested there is no scientific evidence to show that five minutes is long enough to properly judge whether a player is fit to continue. Rugby Football Union operations director Rob Andrew is one of a number of people who want the PSCA extending to at least ten minutes.

Dr Bob Cantu of Boston University told the Mail on Sunday that more needs to be done to protect rugby players.

He was quoted as saying: "There can be long-term ramifications from mismanaging concussions. The five-minute test is a great start but it is not adequate."

There have also been calls for soccer players to receive greater levels of protection.

A head injury suffered by Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in 2013 caused controversy, with brain injury experts and charities suggesting the Frenchman should not have been allowed to finish the match.

Expert Opinion
This is an important step in understanding the impact of brain injuries on sportspeople. The immediate symptoms of a brain injuries are sometimes extremely difficult to detect and it is important that during matches, especially in contact sports such as rugby, that trained medical staff are on hand to assess the players after a head injury.

“The effect that serious head injuries can have on victims simply cannot be overstated and it is well known that early intervention in the form of treatment and rehabilitation can play a vital role in the recovery process.

“Head injuries have to be treated very seriously, as they are often misunderstood and can result in not only physical problems but emotional and mental issues.

“There have been a number of recent incidents of head injuries being sustained in rugby and other sports. The governing bodies of the sports most affected are right to be alive to this issue, so that the risks are can be properly managed in training and during games, with officials also being given clear guidance. Clear guidelines will help minimise repeated injury and will ensure that we can all continue to enjoy these sports, whether as participants or spectators.”
Stephen Nye, Partner