Last updated: 21/07/21 at 7:22 pm
Premiership Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Rugby Players Association launched an action plan to reduce head injuries and concussion risks in elite and junior rugby union matches as well as training.
This action plan outlines how science and technology are being combined to improve thinking and optimize brain health and player welfare for past, present and future players.
A greater focus on head impacts is being implemented alongside the ongoing efforts to improve the quality of concussion and head impact management in the professional game. There are also plans for a brain health assessment service that will be available for elite retired male and female players.
Primary prevention will be dominated by the application of smart mouthguards during the 2022/23 and 2021/22 seasons. The RFU is asking that all 13 Premiership clubs utilize them to set new standards for contact training. Harlequins women’s team have tested the technology. This allows staff to track head impacts and monitor their progress in real-time.
Secondary prevention includes implementation of World Rugby’s Graduated Return to Play protocols, Independent Concussion Consultant reviews and the use of Hawkeye videos to aid Head Injury Assessments for the women’s Premier 15s.
There will also be a tertiary prevention program for former players, The Advanced BRAIN Health Clinic in London opening in 2021. This clinic allows assessment and management of anyone between 30 and 55 with concerns about their brain health.
Dr Simon Kemp, RFU’s director of medical services told Sky Sports News that “Based upon our experiences with Harlequins mouthguards, there has been a high level interest by players and coaches to learn what their training intensity means.”
They were very familiar with understanding GPS data, running loads and acceleration/deceleration loads. The mouthguards provide them with information about the impact and head accelerations.
Both clubs were very positive about using this tool in club settings, despite the fact that it was not a research-based benefit.
Damien Hopley, RPA’s chief executive is confident that the sport will continue to receive the best concussion research. However, he acknowledged there could be concerns from his constituents about the findings of an Imperial College study which revealed that a fifth showed abnormalities in the white matter of the brain.
Drake Rugby Biomarker Study involved the RFU and examined 44 top players from July 2017 to September 2019. Results of almost half the scans revealed that 23% of them had abnormalities in their brain cells.
Hopley stated that “Clearly this sets the Hares Running.” It’s clear that this headline will be scary for some players, but it is important to look at the current situation and make informed decisions based on it.
Hopley believes that current players are in favor of less training.
According to him, “Based upon conversations we have had, I believe player would appreciate that.” The issue is how to manage it, how do we handle that properly, and how to marry the medical information we have discussed.
It is important to clarify and regulate contact in order to provide certainty.
Publiated at Wed 21 July 2021 23.22:17 +0000