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Rugby’s concussion rest period set to increase up to 12 days

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Kyle Sinckler is examined for concussion during the Rugby World Cup 2019 final between England and South Africa. Photo: David Rogers/Getty

Kyle Sinckler is examined for concussion during the Rugby World Cup 2019 final between England and South Africa. Photo: David Rogers/Getty

Kyle Sinckler is examined for concussion during the Rugby World Cup 2019 final between England and South Africa. Photo: David Rogers/Getty

Players who suffer a concussion are likely to face a 12-day wait before being allowed to resume training under extended return-to-play protocol to be announced today by World Rugby.

Under a new individualised approach, all players who have a history of concussion or who fail the off-field Head Injury Assessment (HIA) during a match face a minimum 12-day lay-off before returning to play. Only players who have no concussion history and show no symptoms following a medical test taken after two nights’ rest will be able to return to play after a minimum of seven days following a review from an independent concussion specialist.

All players with a history of concussion will need to be signed off by an independent concussion specialist in order to return after a minimum of 12 days.

A history of concussion is defined by World Rugby as players who have been diagnosed with concussion in the previous three months, had three concussions diagnosed in the previous 12 months, have been diagnosed with five concussions in their career, with psychological issues which may lead to it being harder to diagnose concussion, and who have taken longer than 21 days to recover from a previous concussion.

The new approach comes as a result of the latest review of scientific evidence and rugby-specific research by the federation’s expert, independent Concussion Working Group, and was described as “gold standard” by Bob Cantu, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery who is part of the group.

“I believe World Rugby has a Head Injury Assessment protocol that is gold standard, second to none and superior to most,” he said.

“As a working group, we discussed the full range of options, from mandating a longer stand-down period for all players through to keeping the existing protocols in place, and the consensus of the group is that an approach based on the circumstances of the individual involved is undoubtedly the best way forward.”

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Regarding the long-term battle to make the sport as safe as possible for all players, Alan Gilpin, World Rugby’s chief executive, said: “We’re making progress. You can never do too much in this area, we can’t stand still and have to keep evolving.

“It’s probably never a battle we’re going to win, but the key for us is to keep advancing with the science and do it as quickly as possible. We just have to keep evolving.

“We’re a contact, collision-based sport, there are always going to be head impacts. What we’re trying to do is reduce them by teaching better tackle technique, ultimately.

“From mini rugby through to the international game, improving tackle technique is what will help us improve in this space. There are always going to be head impacts and concussions,” he added.

“It is a battle we won’t ever win, but we want to win it enough that people are comfortable with our game, that it’s safe to play at all levels and the sport is doing its best to look after players’ safety and welfare.”

International Rugby Players has called for openness regarding head injuries and concussions so the new protocols can work efficiently.

Conrad Smith, the IRP head of player welfare, said: “The key to this working – and the important part in changing the culture around concussion – is that players report their head injuries and any symptoms.”

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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