Leicester Tigers could still face questions over treatment of former Leinster star Dominic Ryan
Leicester Tigers may yet face scrutiny from an independent concussion review group after the club did not subject flanker Dominic Ryan to a head injury assessment (HIA) during their 24-11 defeat to Northampton Saints on Saturday at Franklin’s Gardens.
Former Leinster flanker Ryan made a cover tackle on George North in the 52nd minute with Leicester trailing 17-13 and stayed down when his head appeared to collide with the Wales wing’s elbow.
However, following an assessment from two Tigers medics with referee JP Doyle in close attendance, the 27 year-old joined the subsequent scrum and completed the match.
Ryan had earlier come on for an injured Brendon O’Connor in the opening seconds of the second half. Matters had been complicated for Tigers because Ryan was hurt while Mike Williams, was serving 10 minutes in the sin bin. Williams himself was a temporary replacement for Graham Kitchener, who had left the field for a HIA.
Options to cover for Ryan’s absence were therefore limited. Telegraph columnist Austin Healey, working as an analyst for BT Sport, commented at the time that the visitors could have been forced to deploy scrum-half Sam Harrison in the back row.
Interviewed by BT Sport commentator Alastair Eykyn later in the second half, Leicester assistant coach Geordan Murphy said that the Tigers management had reviewed footage on the sideline and, helped by the diagnosis of pitchside medics, come to the conclusion that Ryan was “winded”.
Ironically, North suffered an apparent loss of consciousness in the East Midlands derby at Welford Road last December - another televised match. Northampton were subjected to an independent review when they allowed him to return to the field following a HIA.
A three-man panel of Nigel Melville’s, the Rugby Football Union’s director of professional rugby, Phillip Winstanley, rugby director at Premiership Rugby and independent chairman Dr Julian Morris ruled that North should not have played on.
Northampton escaped sanction, but nine recommendations were published with the aim of avoiding a similar incident.
Each Premiership team provide a pitchside reviewer, a member of the club’s medical team, for each game. This individual monitors game footage in real time and is responsible for referring any suspicious head injuries to the team doctor for their review.
Video footage of any suspicious head injury events should be captured and clipped by the pitchside reviewer and reviewed by the team doctor to assess if a player should be immediately removed on a permanent basis or temporarily replaced for an assessment using the HIA process.
The RFU also review each and every suspected head injury in Premiership action and are currently in the process of looking over the second round of fixtures. Should they feel Ryan’s incident merits further action, Leicester would have 48 hours to respond.