Rugby’s changing its attitudes towards concussions

Finally it seems common sense has prevailed, as players are no longer allowed play the “hero” when they have sustained head injuries on the field of play. The power is now firmly in the hands of team doctors and referees.

This was on full display in Ireland’s final game of the autumn series against Australia, where four Irish players Johnny Sexton, Gordon Darcy, Rob Kearney and Conor Murray were assessed for concussion. Murray’s case was particularly telling however as the player clearly didn’t want to come off after receiving an Australian knee to the head.

Dr Eanna Falvey the Irish team doctor took control however, and made sure that proper protocols were observed before allowing the Irish scrumhalf to re-enter the game.

Despite the potential repercussions at such a critical juncture in the game, taking a player out of the game in this instance sends out a very positive message to the rugby world.

High profile instances like this are vital in order to change the culture within rugby and put player safety number one.

Rugby still has a ways to go however, for example Ireland’s and Ulster’s Luke Marshall sustaining four concussions between March 2013 and February 2014 was not acceptable.

Perhaps the IRB can learn from the NFL who were recently hit with an $675m concussion settlement with an additional $112m in player’s lawyer fees.

This has resulted in much stricter protocols in regards to concussions especially in regards to a player suffering multiple concussions in a season. All players that suffer suspected concussions are automatically taken into the locker room for assessment and in most cases are ruled out of the remainder of the game.

Although rugby’s process for assessing concussions on the pitch are up to scratch, perhaps they should take a leaf out of the NFL’s book in regards to multiple cases. Cleveland Tight End Jordan Cameron has missed a month of action after suffering multiple concussions this season in direct contrast to how Luke Marshall was treated.

I’ve talked to Eoin Cremen who is the physio for Seapoint RFC who compete in Division 2A of the AIL. He told me how he had the power to remove a player from the pitch if they have suffered a concussion.

He also said how awareness has made his job much easier as a referee’s can now request a player leave the field for assessment if deemed necessary. He outlined how attitudes are changing but it is an ongoing process as medics have little precedent due to rugby still being in early years of professionalism making it necessary to learn on a case-by-case basis.

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