The 2012 IRB Medical Conference will take place from November 26-28 in Dublin with Rugby's top physicians focused on the continued commitment to reduce the risk of injury in the sport.
Injury rates in elite Rugby have returned to levels comparable before the Game went professional in 1995 and the IRB and its Member Unions will renew their collective commitment to tackling player welfare issues and promote best-practice techniques that will ultimately benefit Rugby players at all levels.
This key conference will look to build on the solid progress driven by outcomes of the three previous annual conferences with delegates considering the latest research, trends and medical developments to identify priority areas for the IRB to concentrate on over the following year. The approach enables focus areas to be relevant and tackle topical issues as they happen.
The conference, which brings together Union doctors and independent sports and medical experts, has been the springboard for a suite of medical and player welfare policies that are already benefitting the Game:
- Concussion guidelines developed in line with Zurich Consensus Statement
- Online concussion education programme www.irbplayerwelfare.com
- Catastrophic injury reporting - standardised worldwide register for catastrophic injuries - Gender policy developed in line with IOC recommendations
- Best practice Game preparation techniques www.irbrugbyready.com
Areas currently being developed by expert working groups that are projected to be in place by the end of 2012:
- The role of the Match Day Doctor
- Pitch side concussion assessment protocols
- Pre-participation screening including cardiac screening policy
- Game-wide injury prevention strategies
- Implementation of courses that improve care for all players: doctors at elite level, team doctors and sports first aid
An expert group responsible for developing Game-wide injury prevention strategies has also been established.
A two-day training workshop to promote best-practice emergency pitch side care for potential medical educators will be run on November 24-25. This new initiative, a central recommendation from the 2011 Conference, will further the dissemination of best practice techniques across IRB Unions that will be critical in the immediate treatment of players.
IRB Chief Medical Officer Dr Martin Raftery said: "We have a fully collaborative approach to developing medical policies that are designed to benefit Rugby players at both elite and community level. We are truly committed to ensuring that the welfare of our players are the central consideration."
"It is a misconception that injury rates are increasing in the sport. It is true that players are becoming bigger, stronger and faster and that there are more contact or collision incidents in the average match, but all the data suggests that injury rates have not increased since 2002. Indeed they have actually returned to levels comparable to before the Game went professional in 1995."
"However, we must keep driving medical policies forward in order that we provide an environment where the 5.5 million men, women and children currently participating in Rugby can have access to the best-possible training and education techniques in order that we can continue to tackle the areas that can lead to injury. The IRB and our Unions are totally committed to that process."
It is understood that nearly 50 per cent of injuries are potentially controllable with training injuries and non-contact match injuries contributing factors. Education is key and that is why the IRB's Rugby Ready online and practical resource is at the forefront of educating players, coaches, match officials and administrators on how best to prepare for Rugby.
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