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Raising Awareness Of Head Injuries In Rugby

Medical Adviser Calls For More Training Programmes


An experienced medical adviser believes rugby players need to know more about the potential effects of head injuries.

Dr Barry O'Driscoll - who once worked for the International Rugby Board - suggested that greater effort is needed to protect players against concussion.

Speaking to BBC Wales, he stated that concussion awareness training should be made mandatory across all levels of the game.

While professional clubs benefit from having large teams of medical experts at their disposal, the same cannot be said of amateur organisations.

"At the grassroots level - so all the way through - I would like to see mandatory training as part of coaching courses [and] as part of schools lessons with young rugby players," Mr O'Driscoll was quoted as saying.

"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 Welsh Rugby Union said it was committed to player safety and is looking to introduce a nationwide education programme in order to raise awareness about the possible consequences of head injuries.

Meanwhile, the English Rugby Football Union has handed out 200,000 'Headcase' cards, which contain advice on concussion.

Although the number of people who sustain serious brain injuries while playing contact sports is low, there have been reports to suggest that players can suffer long-term problems without even realising it.

Research undertaken at Imperial College London highlighted "unusual activity" in the brains of retired American footballers.

While the players had not been diagnosed with a neurological condition, scientists found that former professionals had a number of brain defects that would not show up on a standard clinical test.

The study - which has been published in Scientific Reports - involved 13 ex-National Football League (NFL) players who felt they were still suffering the effects of head injuries years after they had retired. Previous trials had shown former NFL stars were more likely to develop neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's in the long run.

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

“Making people who may be at some risk of such injuries – such as rugby players – more aware of the symptoms and issues to bear in mind is a sensible idea which also promotes a general greater awareness of the consequences of head injuries in general.

“Anything that brings the issue of head injuries to a wider audience must ultimately be welcomed as a positive step.”
Stephen Nye, Partner