School principal calls for new protocols after three head injuries in minutes during Munster Schools Senior Cup clash
A school principal has called for new protocols to deal with multiple injuries in rugby games after three of his pupils were taken to hospital due to knocks to the head during a match last Wednesday.
The trio, aged 15 and 16 and from St Munchin's College, Limerick, went to hospital in Cork after being injured in the opening nine minutes of a Munster Schools clash.
Principal David Quilter said rugby's concussion issue is not helped by players getting bigger and fitter but stressed that three head injuries within nine minutes of play was a freak occurrence.
He added something needed to be done to help players and coaches deal with the increasing numbers of injuries in the sport.
With three of the St Munchin's players rushed to hospital to be treated for suspected concussions, the school's staff were left with a dilemma because each of the players had to be accompanied to the hospital by a coach.
"We were down to a skeleton staff and we felt it was a risk to put 15 players back on the pitch with a skeleton staff," Mr Quilter said.
"It was a logistical and health and safety matter.
"Maybe they need to look at (situations where) if there are a whole series of injuries causing a delay in play and raises a concern for the people on the pitch.
"If the pitch is deemed to deteriorate and becomes unplayable, the ref has complete liberty to stop the game. Likewise, if a team loses its entire front row, he can call for uncontested scrums.
"There are protocols for a number of events. There were no protocols for what happened in our situation because it was so unique."
Two of the St Munchin's players were taken to hospital after they collided with each other in the seventh minute.
Mr Quilter travelled in an ambulance with one player while the other was brought to hospital by car with a member of staff. This caused a 25-minute stoppage in play and the game had only resumed for two minutes before another player was left with a suspected head injury.
"We were not gone long when we got a phone call saying to come back because there was another injury," Mr Quilter said.
"I just thought, 'Oh my God'. First of all we didn't know if it was one of our players or someone else.
"It was decided we had gone too far to turn back and called another ambulance. It got there quite quickly and it was only when the second ambulance was on the way to the hospital that we heard it was one of our players."
After a delay in play of more than 20 minutes, St Munchin's declined to go on due to their safety concerns.
Mr Quilter said: "Ten years ago, we were getting similar injuries but we were less knowledgeable and less informed. We'd take them to the sideline, give them paracetamol and that's the way it was. We are more clued in now."
He would not be opposed to the use of mandatory head gear in rugby but said head injuries will still happen, adding: "It certainly would help but I am not so sure it would eliminate it or even reduce it.
"It is a worry. My son plays for the senior cup team and it is a worry for me but that won't stop the game being played. If I am convinced my son will be protected and prepared to the maximum, I will buy in to it. It is a game of attrition, there will be injuries."
Munster Rugby said it was happy to take such "unprecedented" circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
A spokeswoman said the Age Grade Competitions Committee and the Munster Rugby Schools Committee have since considered all the facts surrounding the game being halted and it will be replayed.
She added: "Following the review, both committees expressed their support for referee Paudie Sheehan and his team in overseeing a difficult and unprecedented situation, noting the referee made his decision to restart the game based on facts and was procedurally correct."