Rugby Medical Experts to Drive Forward Player Welfare at IRB Medical Commission Conference

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Rugby Medical Experts to Drive Forward Player Welfare at IRB Medical Commission Conference
The fifth annual IRB Medical Commission Conference takes place in Dublin on November 18-20 with delegates considering key areas of the governing body’s player welfare strategy as well as the latest developments in sports science.

Hosted within the inaugural IRB World Rugby Conference and Exhibition programme, the Medical Commission Conference will bring together Union medics, playing representatives and independent medical experts from 29 nations to consider the IRB’s extensive portfolio of medical policies.

Delegates will review progress over the last 12 months and receive updates on the work of the specialist working groups in four key areas: immediate pitch side care; medical science and research; Sevens strategies and concussion. Other agenda items include anti-doping, team physician minimum standards and accreditation, scrum forces, player welfare education and cervical spine care.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “Player welfare is at the very heart of the IRB’s strategy to grow the Game around the world. The IRB Medical Commission Conference was established five years ago to bring together the best medical minds to drive forward the medical and science-based policies that are benefiting the global Game.”

Rugby’s evidence-based approach to concussion education, prevention, management and research will be at the heart of the agenda. Delegates will be joined by neuroscientist Dr Willie Stewart, concussion expert Dr Jon Patricios and neurosurgeon Dr Philippe Decq to discuss the strategies that the IRB has implemented globally at all levels to protect and support players.

IRB Chief Medical Officer Dr Martin Raftery said: “Concussion management is at the very heart of the IRB’s player welfare strategy designed to protect players at all levels of the Game and promote the very highest standards of education, coaching and medical care.”

“Rugby’s approach is founded on evidence-based research, education, prevention, management and research and in particular the 2012 Zurich Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport and those of Cantu and McKee. It takes positive steps to protect players at all levels of the Game from the risk of concussion, especially relating to age-specific return to play protocols, best-practice coaching technique and outlawing deliberate hits to the head.”

“Driven by area experts, including neurologists, it has the full support of the International Rugby Players’ Association and national Unions and puts the welfare of players at all levels first.”

“Ultimately the message to players, coaches and parents at all levels of the Game is to recognise the symptoms of concussion and remove the player permanently from the training or playing field. If in doubt, sit it out. The IRB’s education materials can be found at”

The IRB has driven forward policies that are protecting players at all levels and the delegates will be briefed on the results of the first year of the Pitchside Suspected Concussion Assessment (PSCA) trial, the IRB’s approach to mitigating potential risk of long-term health problems, including longitudinal research and the importance of education across the Rugby family.

Dr Raftery continued: “The procedure of on-field management of head injuries is as follows. If a player displays strong signs of concussion immediately after a head impact, that player is removed from the field of play immediately and must not return. The PSCA should not be used in that situation.”

“However, if a player sustains a blow to the head and immediate diagnosis is not apparent, the five-minute PSCA allows the doctor time to remove a player from the pitch and assess a head injury in a clinical environment in a standardised way.”

“The PSCA is not a concussion diagnosis tool, it is a screening tool used to triage players where the diagnosis is not immediately apparent. Players who fail the PSCA have a suspected concussion until a formal assessment is completed after the match to determine the diagnosis. These players are removed from the match immediately and may not return. It adds an additional player of protection for players.”

“Prior to the Pitchside Suspected Concussion Assessment triage trial, players were being assessed on the field and on the run and it was determined that 56 per cent of players with a post-match confirmed concussion returned to the field of play. In the first year of the PSCA trial that figure has dropped to 13 per cent and will continue to reduce as the process is embedded with greater compliance.”

The conference will conclude on November 20 with the IRB delivering level two and three courses in immediate pitch side care and also a medical educator course.

Listen to an interview with Dr Martin Raftery on the IRB’s approach to concussion in Rugby.

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