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Expert Calls For Grassroots Rugby Concussion Awareness Lessons

Medical Professional Wants Mandatory Concussion Awareness Training For School Rugby Players


 A former International Rugby Board’s (IRB) medical advisor has called for more to be done to protect rugby players from the dangers of concussion.

Researchers have linked suffering repeated concussions from playing sport with depression, memory loss and even early dementia. Now former medical advisor Dr Barry O’Driscoll wants concussion awareness training to be mandatory for all rugby players and coaches at grassroots level. Dr O’Driscoll has quit his IRB job claiming the body trivialised concussion, which has been denied.

The game of rugby has changed significantly over the years which has made suffering injuries such as concussion more widespread.

Dr Gareth Jones, Cardiff Blues team doctor, said: "It used to be called a contact sport, but it's now a collision sport.

"The guys are getting bigger, they're getting stronger, the impact forces are huge, and certainly there's been a change even at the younger age groups.

"Inevitably, the collisions are getting greater and greater as this goes on, resulting in increased numbers of injuries."

Dr O’Driscoll’s call was aimed at the unions in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England. The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) does not provide mandatory training for grassroots coaches or referees on concussion.

Dr O'Driscoll said: "At the grassroots level - so all the way through - I would like to see a mandatory training as part of coaching courses as part of schools lessons with young rugby players.

"They don't need to be experts on brain surgery. What they need to do is get across a) the signs and symptoms and b) what to do."

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) said: "This year we have distributed 200,000 'Headcase' cards to the game giving advice on recognising concussion and stressing the 'if in doubt, sit it out' message.

"Online resources include a dedicated area of rfu.com which gives advice for players, parents, teachers, coaches, medics and other volunteers.

"Since 2008 around 35,000 English coaches have taken the IRB's Rugby Ready course which includes a concussion element."

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said: "The IRFU observe all international best practices, as set out by the International Rugby Board.
"We have in place and continue to develop education and training campaigns to ensure player welfare is prioritised at all times."

Expert Opinion
Rugby is a high paced and full contact sport where at any point a collision or tackle between two players is likely to happen. These collisions can lead to head and brain injuries including concussion, memory loss and even dementia. Players, coaches and referees need to be educated at all levels about the dangers of concussion, especially at the grassroots as they may not have the medical facilities or a qualified medical team at hand.

“There is no getting away from general sports injuries as tackling and scrums in rugby is all part of the game, however injuries to the head can have devastating effects and it is crucial that there is a fast response to injuries to maximise the chance of improving the outcome after a head injury. In the USA, sport bodies have responded to widespread concerns to do more about concussion in sport and there may be something to be learned from the American experience over here.”
Neil Whiteley, Partner