Education top priority for Player Welfare

(IRB.COM) Friday 5 November 2010
 Education top priority for Player Welfare

Strategies in injury prevention and education were the central themes of the 2010 IRB Medical Conference in London with delegates identifying a second suite of key medical focus areas to drive player welfare best-practice.

Under the central theme of Putting Players First, the three-day Conference set out to tackle player welfare issues facing the Game at both the elite and community level.  The forum also provided leading physicians from 25 Unions, along with independent specialists, playing and refereeing experts, with the opportunity to consider the latest research and medical opinion on injury prevention.

With expert presentations and workshops triggering discussions, the delegates outlined major focus areas relating to the important issue of injury prevention for the IRB to address through its Medical Strategies over the next 12 months.  These recommendations follow the implementation of a suite of player welfare policies by the IRB as a result of the inaugural IRB Medical Conference in 2009.

2010/2011 recommended focus areas:

Education is key: IRB Rugby Ready ( to be further developed and used as the global vehicle for global best practice techniques for playing, coaching, officiating and administrating at all levels of the Game, with increased focus on correct tackling techniques.

Concussion Education: Concussion risk, diagnosis, management and return to play education a priority for all levels of the global Game.

Match Day Medical Support: Global best practice guidelines should be developed for elite and community Rugby.

Longitudinal Studies Required: Definitive global study required to assess the long-term injury profile and post-Rugby career issues for elite players.

Click here to read all the key outcomes >>

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The welfare of players at all levels of the Game is of critical importance to the IRB and all our 117 Member Unions. Collectively, a lot has already been achieved. Policies devised by the specialist working groups established following the inaugural Medical Conference in 2009 are already benefiting the Game. We now have global policies in key areas, including global injury reporting, training and education best practice, cardiac screening, spinal injury reporting and we are close to a revised global policy for concussion management.”

“Identification of these further focus areas reflects the continued commitment within the global Rugby family to Putting Players First. These Conference outcomes will drive policy making and the continued dissemination of best practice information to those playing, coaching and officiating the Game from grass roots to the elite level.”

“We must always seek to ensure the highest possible standards and collectively we are committed to driving forward best-practice medical and player welfare strategies to reduce the risk of injury and I would like to thank the delegates for their full and honest contribution over the past three days.”

Keynote speakers included Arsenal team doctor Gary O’Driscoll, Scotland and British & Irish Lions doctor James Robson, Professor Bill McKenna from UCL Partners and Risk Management specialist Dr Colin Fuller.

Notes to editors:

Day 1 – November 3: The Conference opened with meetings of the four specialist IRB Medical Working Groups established as a recommendation from the 2009 Conference to drive best-practice policy in concussion management, spinal cord injury management, gender issues and implementation of cross-Union best-practice medical and player welfare policies.

1. Concussion Working Group: Delegates considered the latest work of the IRB Concussion Working Group driving forward the review of IRB Regulation 10.1. With a policy required that covers all levels of the Game across all 117 Member Unions, the new policy will centre on Game-wide risk and process education, diagnosis, management and return to play.

2. Spinal Cord Injury Management Working Group:  A worldwide online catastrophic injury reporting system will be launched in January 2011 via The system will provide a global standard reporting procedure for spinal injuries and associated best-practice materials. The collated information will determine Game and type of injury focus areas and drive further policy making for injury prevention.

3. Implementation Working Group: The delegates commended the IRB on the launch of its global player welfare website hub and endorsed IRB Rugby Ready ( as the hub for dissemination of all playing, coaching and officiating best-practice education across all levels of the Game.

4. Gender Issues Working Group: IRB Gender Identity Policy launched and operational via

Day 2 – November 4: The programme for the second day provided the opportunity for physicians from 25 Unions, along with playing and refereeing representatives and independent medical experts, to consider the latest research and expert medical opinion on injury prevention, cardiac screening and injury reporting and management. The keynote speakers were Arsenal team doctor Gary O’Driscoll, Scotland and British & Irish Lions doctor James Robson and Professor Bill McKenna from UCL partners.

1. Infectious Diseases: Delegates were updated on policies produced on infectious disease, immunisation and infection prevention, education and management in Rugby. All policy documents are now available via

2. Sudden Cardiac Death: Delegates were advised on the importance of cardiac screening for all players. Some Unions are already implementing programmes at elite level.

3. Injury Prevention: Delegates reiterated the need for the IRB’s suite of educational player welfare and medical materials to drive best-practice techniques.

4. Injury Surveillance: Delegates were updated on IRB injury surveillance programmes to monitor medium and long term injury risk at all levels of international Rugby. 2011 studies will include RWC 2011, HSBC Sevens World Series, IRB Junior World Championship, IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy, ANZ Pacific Nations Cup and IRB Nations Cup.

Day 3 – November 5: The keynote speaker on day three was Andy Smith, who kicked off a workshop session on catastrophic injury and emergency care best practice, while the delegates also considered the player welfare benefits of GPS technology, best-practice match day medical protocols and scrum forces. In a conference first, Rob Nichol (IRPA), Didier Retiere (France forwards coach), Paddy O’Brien (IRB Elite Referee Manager) and Stuart Dickinson (IRB Referee) moderated a special player, coach and referee session to focus on issues relating to the playing of the Game.

1. Rugby World Cup 2011: Delegates were updated on the practices, match day medical teams and facilities for the seventh Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

2. Best-practice match day medical staff management: Delegates discussed guidelines for medical staffing at both elite and community levels, to set recommended standards.

3. Emergency care: Delegates discussed the need to ensure best-practice emergency care standards across the community Game.

4. GPS Technology: Delegates were updated on the use of GPS technology to monitor and manage player welfare for elite players as part of an IRB approved trial programme.

5. Scrum Study: Delegates were updated on a two-year study by the IRB and the University of Bath. Supported by the RFU, the study will provide an in-depth analysis of the biomechanical forces between all positions in the scrum, using controlled live and scrum machine situations in order to identify better playing, coaching and refereeing techniques for this key facet of the Game. France national team forwards coach Didier Retiere gave an overview of the FFR’s front row passport programme and extensive elite and community scrum study.

IRB Medical Conference Speakers: Bill Beaumont (IRB Vice Chairman), Dr Mick Molloy (IRB Chief Medical Officer), Dr Colin Fuller (IRB & FIFA Risk Management Consultant), Andrew Gray (Athletic Data Innovations), Dr Lyn Griffiths (Medical Protection Society), Professor Bill McKenna (UCL Partners), Dr Gary O’Driscoll (Arsenal FC), Dr Andy Smith (Course Director RFU Immediate Care in Sport programme), Dr Grant Trewartha (University of Bath), Adam Pearson (Sport Development Resources Ltd), Dr Martin Raftery (Medical Director, Australian Rugby Union), Dr Mike England (Community Rugby Medical Director, RFU), Dr Simon Kemp (Head of Sports Medicine, RFU), Didier Retiere (National Team Forwards Coach, FFR), Rob Nichol (Chief Executive Officer, IRPA), Niall Woods (IRPA), Dr Steve Targett (RWC Tournament Medical Director), Dr Alin Popescu (Medical Coordinator, FRR), Dr James Robson (Head of Medical Services, SRU), Dr Roger Evans (Chief Medical Officer, WRU).