Concussion in Rugby needs to be controlled
Rugby’s governing bodies are adamant that something must be done to address the physical toll the sport is taking on professional players by arranging the calendar so that minimum rest periods are guaranteed. The growing awareness around concussion has prompted renewed efforts to persuade administrators from both hemispheres to think hard and try and find a solution which may imply the Six Nations will start at least a month later on the schedule within a few years. Over the weekend, the Saracens took the innovative approach of taping sensor chips behind the ears of their players to monitor the impact on the head in a tackle or collision. They started this analysis during their home game against London Irish, downloading the data after the match, with the view that an improvement in the technology will lead to real-time information by the end of the year.
Premiership Rugby plans to speak to Saracens about the move and will be monitoring the results, but medical experts involved in the sport believe the problem of concussion and other serious injuries will only be brought into check if the demands on players, in terms of the matches they play and the training they are required to do, are reduced. World Rugby has made looking at the global calendar a priority and meetings have been held at chief executive level as well as with player associations.
The Six Nations’ resolute refusal to even consider moving their tournament was one of the problem points the last time an attempt was made to better harmonize the sport in the two hemispheres, but the mood has changed. The meetings of the chief executives, together with progress made at Six Nations and Sanzar level, have encouraged World Rugby that there is scope for change. The next step will be to involve clubs in the discussions, something that would not have been possible a few years ago, but there is an appreciation now that if progress is to be made over issues such as the global season and player welfare, all those involved at the top end of the game have to be part of the decision-making process.
The research into concussion that has been made in the last couple of years has shown how vital it is that the governing bodies take a good look at the playing schedule, and with it the training that players endure, which accounts for 50% of injuries.
World Rugby was accused a couple of years ago of being slow to recognize the perils of concussion but the processes it has put in place have been copied by other sports and the number of players carrying on with a head injury later diagnosed as concussion has dropped considerably. The nature of rugby as a contact sport signifies that concussion is part of the risk players have to face and if one looks at the number of players who require some form of restorative surgery in a season the list would be never ending, so a solution needs to be found and fast. One could be radical and have some form of exercise passport that allowed players to train for only so many hours a week using technology to monitor players through tags but unless a global agreement is achieved, it will be difficult to bring about change, which is absolutely vital in order to reduce the toll on players, or else their careers will eventually see a shortening of careers.”