Delegates at the inaugural IRB Medical Conference have identified key medical focus areas in a strategy for global player welfare best-practice and to tackle injury trends within the Game.
Under the central theme of "Putting Players First", the two-day Conference at Twickenham Stadium provided leading physicians and administrators with a forum to consider the latest IRB and Member Union research and medical and sports science developments.
trategies in anti-doping, concussion diagnosis and assessment, the physicality of the Game, catastrophic injuries, advances in Women's Rugby, as well as player burnout were among the key discussion topics.
Putting Players First: Player Welfare is paramount and all stakeholders have a collective responsibility to ensure the best possible education for playing, coaching, officiating and administering the Game.
New Management Process: Cross-Union approach involving expert groups to develop appropriate player welfare and medical policies in accordance with the IRB's Medical Strategic Plan. Key policy focus areas including global injury data collation, sudden cardiac death prevention and infectious diseases to be presented to the IRB Council for consideration prior to global web-based training and education materials roll out.
Concussion: The Zurich Consensus Statement in Concussion in Sport should underpin all decisions relating to Regulation 10 and provide the basis of any recommendations for regulation alteration. It is recommended in the event of a player being removed from the field of play with a diagnosis of concussion they should not be allowed to return to the field of play that day.
Physicality of the Game: IRB to prioritise Law enforcement at the tackle and ruck and to establish a working party to facilitate global study on physicality of the Game and influence best possible education for players, coaches and match officials.
The Conference also considered the latest injury data and statistical analysis, while discussion also covered the current injury situation at the elite level of Rugby in England. Expert speakers included Dr James Robson (SRU), Dr Colin Fuller (University of Nottingham), Dr Simon Kemp (RFU), Colin Boreham (Director, Institute for Sport and Health, University College Dublin) and Professor William McKenna (Director, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, University College London).
"The welfare of players at all levels of the Game is of paramount importance and the Medical Conference provided a unique forum for Union medical officers and invited independent experts to discuss a range of key issues, exchange views and form recommendations to help the IRB further develop its Medical Strategic Plan to ensure the continued dissemination of best possible practice for playing, coaching and officiating the Game," said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
"The quality of the discussions over the two days, and the positive response to the information presented by medical experts, clearly highlights the collective determination to ensure that Player Welfare is the primary concern for administrators throughout the Game. I would like to thank all participants for their open and informative input."
"Recommendations were made across a spectrum of medical and player welfare areas for the IRB to focus on through its Medical Strategic Plan. These include comparable global injury data collation, a cross-Game physicality study and targeted educational programmes. The IRB will now review all outcomes from the Conference and consider a set of key recommendations to propose to the Executive Committee," added Lapasset.
For the delegates, the Conference represented a structured opportunity to discuss areas of mutual interest and it provided Union medical officers with an invaluable information sharing platform.
Dr Simon Kemp, RFU Head of Sports Medicine, said: "From the perspective of the individual Unions, we all welcomed the opportunity to share research and processes with other Unions, learn from each others experiences and continue to develop a more coherent global consensus on key issues such as injury trends, catastrophic injury prevention, concussion management, prevention of sudden cardiac death, illicit drugs and anti-doping."
"All of the delegates shared their experiences openly and honestly and the IRB should be congratulated on the way they facilitated the process. The next stage - how the recommendations start to shape IRB policy is the key step but I am optimistic that the meeting will have an impact on a range of areas."
Dr James Robson added: "The IRB Medical Conference provided an excellent first step in a new integrated approach for Unions to share information and discuss global medical issues and recommend strategies. The outcomes will be beneficial in the drive to maximise player welfare best practice through the IRB's Medical Strategic Plan."