Tag Archives: rugby
Dr. Michael Grey, one of Britain’s leading experts in motor neuroscience, suggested recently to The Guardian that the Rugby Union could be facing an NFL-style concussion lawsuit in the near future.
Grey and others site the fact that the International Rugby Board has been accused by former medical advisor Dr. Barry O’Driscoll, in an interview with the BBC, of failing to place sufficient importance on treating concussion.
Grey issued the following warning through the paper:
“There’s the damage not only to the individual – and that has to be at the forefront of the mind – but we must also consider the sport itself.
“Absolutely a sport like rugby union could face something similar in the future. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if something like that happens. If we do nothing when we know there’s a problem, then I could see that type of lawsuit occurring.
“We know this is a problem and it’s very clear that the information is not getting out correctly to coaches and particularly to kids when we have an obligation to inform them of the dangers.”
Grey went on to discuss the challenge that helmeted sports lead to a different, or worse, type of impact.
“The collisions are different but it doesn’t take very much impact to shake the brain and cause a concussion,” he said. “It doesn’t take a huge hit.”
The International Rugby Board (IRB) and its Member Unions have “reaffirmed their commitment to ensure best-practice concussion management procedure delivery by undertaking a full review of the first year of the application of the Pitchside Suspected Concussion Assessment (PSCA) protocols.”
The PSCA is designed to give teams and match doctors time to assess cases in which concussion is not immediately apparent. The IRB believes that “since its introduction as a global trial in 2012, (it) has proven highly successful, leading to 25 percent more players being removed from the field of play permanently following a head impact.”
The review will be overseen by the PSCA Working Group, which will assess the protocol’s “functionality and compliance, obtain feedback from team doctors and collectively ensure that the correct procedures are followed to ensure clear and consistent management of suspected concussion cases and further enhance best-practice delivery.”
Specifically, the PSCA allows team doctors to make an assessment in a quiet situation within a five minute interval. This calm environment away from the field of play and the pressures that come with operating in the middle of an incredibly noisy and often pressurized on-field situation hopefully will contribute to more accurate assessments, according to the IRB.
“The PSCA is intended to be a supportive tool for physicians in the elite Game,” said IRB Chief Medical Officer Martin Raftery. “If a player is clearly displaying the signs of concussion, that player must be removed from the field of play and should not return to play.
“Concussion management is at the very heart of the IRB’s player welfare strategies and the message to players, coaches and parents is clear – if in doubt, sit it out.
“Our Member Unions have supported the PSCA process and recognize the enormous benefits that the PSCA process delivers in this important area of player welfare,” he added.
“All head injury incidents occurring within the PSCA trial are logged by the IRB Game Analysis unit for assessment. This review one year on from implementation will enable us to work with the physicians to review all the cases, identify practice learnings and reinforce the importance of following the correct procedures.”
Raftery continued: “The area of concussion is highly emotive and diagnosis is complex, especially in the heat of the battle, and the PSCA was developed in line with international best practice to assist doctors and give them the best possible platform to assess their players when it is unclear whether concussion is apparent.
“All the evidence suggests that the PSCA is proving to be a very effective tool to protect our players and team physicians are twice as likely to remove players from the field of play than independent medics, but we can and will continue to review and improve our practices to ensure that we are collectively doing all we can.”
Barry O’Driscoll, former Irish rugby player from the ‘70’s, is today a respected doctor who has also served 15 years on the International Rugby Board (IRB) where “he held positions on the medical, anti-doping and disciplinary committees.” However, last summer he resigned those positions.
Citing among his reasons for leaving the game’s governing body, he mentioned as one example “the events of 9 March this year, when Ireland played France in the Six Nations and when his nephew, Brian, got concussed on the field.” Apparently, too many collisions had taken its toll. “Brian O’Driscoll lost his bearings, was clearly unsteady on his feet and had to be helped from the field, like a boxer assisted from the ring.”
Understandably, you didn’t have to be a medical professional to know that the younger O’Driscoll was out of it. Strangely enough, he returned to the game as if needing a breather cured everything.
In the IRB’s rule book it states in regulation 10 of the code “that any player suspected of concussion must be taken off and not allowed back on to the field.” However, there is a trial rule in place—the Pitch Side Concussion Assessment (PSCA), or the five-minute rule—that states “that if a player with suspected concussion can pass a series of tests lasting five minutes then he can be allowed back into the fray.” Notice the use of the word ‘fray’ instead of game. Seems most appropriate for the game of rugby, or what some people feel is a free-for-all at best.
The elder O’Driscoll has minced no words in saying, “Rugby is trivialising concussion. They are sending these guys back on to the field and into the most brutal arena. It’s ferocious out there. The same player who 18 months ago was given a minimum of seven days recovery time is now given five minutes. There is no test that you can do in five minutes that will show that a player is not concussed.”
Suffice to say that O’Driscoll’s statement solicited an immediate response from the IRB. “The IRB and its member unions take all areas of player welfare, including concussion, extremely seriously and have engaged with relevant experts and the playing community to design and implement policies and protocols that put the player first. The Rugby approach has been endorsed by the world’s leading forum on concussion management in sport and while we always strive to do more, the PSCA approach in elite rugby is having a positive impact.”
Those relevant experts were headed by chief medical officer of the IRB, Martin Raftery, who “facilitated the working group.”
Clearly the elder O’Driscoll and Raftery are on opposite sides of today’s concussion issue. Raftery even went so far as to say last year that “evidence supporting the theory that collision sports have a negative effect on cognitive function has been questioned by many scientists.”
Perhaps wrestling, hockey, and rugby share a common thread: regulating the game to lessen concussions makes it less appealing to the fans, and disinterest is not in the “best interest” of revenues.