The International Rugby Board has stepped up its policy of providing the best possible concussion education with the launch of a new interactive website.
The first of its kind in Rugby and one of the most comprehensive sport-specific concussion management initiatives, the website is free to access atwww.irbplayerwelfare.com/concussion and will soon be available for the iPad and iPhone platform for easy pitchside access.
The resource is designed to provide the Rugby family with an easy-to-follow, stepped process that caters for issues regarding concussion at all levels of the Game. The website comprises modules to cover situations where the player may or may not have access to a medical practitioner and/or healthcare professional when sustaining a suspected concussion.
The IRB operates a safety-first approach to concussion with player welfare being the primary concern. Under new IRB guidelines, players with suspected concussion must be removed from the field of play and are unable to return to that match or subsequent training sessions.
In a further step to put the player first, the IRB is working with Unions to review the role of independent match-day doctors and define a standard procedure for immediate concussion diagnosis.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “As the Game’s governing body it is our duty to develop and promote the best-possible techniques and practices for playing and preparing to play the Game. Player Welfare is at the heart of our policy making and coupled with our Rugby Ready program players and coaches have access to tools that put the player first and benefit Rugby worldwide. I would like to thank Unions for their collaborative commitment to this important medical area.”
IRB Chief Medical Officer Dr Martin Raftery added: “As a sport, we have been driving forward concussion management development and best-practice policy over the past decade but we can always do more to protect our athletes.”
“Education is of paramount importance at all levels of the Game. Players, coaching staff and parents need to know the risks of ignoring the symptoms of concussion while understanding how to best manage the return to play within a timeframe that puts the player’s health first.”
“This website is an excellent resource but it is just the start of what will be a Game-wide education process. We will be working with Unions, the International Rugby Players’ Association (IRPA) and other key stakeholders to ensure that we reach out to players all around the world.”
As the representative body of professional Rugby players, IRPA was involved in the development of the new IRB Concussion Management guidelines and the educational website in collaboration with the concussion working group comprising Union physicians and independent experts.
IRPA Executive Director Rob Nichol said: “Managing concussion effectively in any form of activity is a challenge. We urge all those involved in Rugby to complete the online educational module, and encourage your friends to do so.
“By way of message to players it is simply educate yourself through the website and be honest with medical and support people if you suspect concussion. Medical staff can’t help if you don’t tell them the truth.”
“Taking a few extra days or even weeks to manage concussion conservatively and follow the recommended return to play protocol is not much in the context of long-term player welfare.”
With Rugby being a collision sport, the IRB has prioritized concussion research and policy development and has worked in partnership with other contact sports such as football, ice hockey and American Football to drive forward best practice that puts athletes first.
The IRB played a central role in the development of the Zurich Consensus (2008) on Concussion in Sport on which the new IRB concussion guidelines are based. The guidelines were designed to be used by physicians and other health professionals as well as team management, teachers, parents and players.
The guidelines are meant to ensure that players who suffer concussion are managed effectively to protect their long-term health and welfare. Scientific knowledge in the field of concussion is constantly evolving and the consensus process will make sure that the IRB guidelines will keep pace with these changes.
For more information on the IRB's Player Welfare programs or resources, visitwww.irbplayerwelfare.com.