The International Rugby Board has underscored its continued commitment to improving player welfare best-practice by playing a central role in the world's leading conference on concussion in sport.
Global experts on concussion diagnosis and management attending the fourth International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport in Zurich reviewed the latest concussion research and renewed their commitment to drive forward best-practice on and off the field of play.
As a co-sponsor of the conference, the IRB has implemented proactive and protective concussion measures in line with recommendations made by the 2008 Zurich Conference and Rugby's hard work and solid progress was noted by the delegates.
Delivering a keynote speech, IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset underscored Rugby's collective commitment to protecting and educating players and reaffirmed the sport's determination to continue addressing the area of concussion.
"As custodians of the sport we have a responsibility to ensure the highest-possible standards of welfare and medical support for our athletes at all levels and for contact sports the diagnosis and management of concussion is a top priority,” he said.
"Concussion is a pressing topic for sport. The IRB supports research that will improve understanding of this injury and enable the development of evidence-based programmes, improve education of the wider community and assist in the dissemination of best-practice messages in this critical area."
"Guided by the recommendations of the Zurich Conference, we have made significant progress over the past four years. We have delivered new return to play guidelines and education programmes for community and elite level Rugby. We are also currently trialling a new Pitch-Side Concussion Assessment (PSCA) protocol which standardises in-match assessment. But we are continually striving to do more."
"The IRB strongly believes that robust player welfare is key to progressing sport around the world. It underpins our commitment to the global development of Rugby in order that more girls, boys, women and men can enjoy the rewarding social and inclusive values of sport," added Lapasset.
IRB Chief Medical Officer Dr Martin Raftery outlined in detail to delegates the progress made by the IRB following the 2008 Consensus Statement. Progressive changes implemented include a review of the concussion regulation, development of concussion guidelines, production of an online concussion education tool, the introduction of a trial of the new PSCA process in elite competitions and the commissioning of research into long-term health outcomes in Rugby players. All of which have player welfare at their core.
The IRB's proactive work on concussion management is part of an holistic approach to player welfare driven by the IRB's annual Medical Commission Conference. Current priority areas include the development of an expert group to establish Game-wide injury prevention strategies, standardising the role and training of the match day doctor and delivering comprehensive education and training materials.
Pitch-Side Concussion Assessment (PSCA) trial.
The recommendation to remove the player can be made by either the referee, the independent match day doctor or the team doctor from the player's team. Once that command is made, the referee will indicate that the player is leaving the field of play with a hand signal where he touches his head three times.
Once the player has been removed from the field of play and temporarily replaced, the team and independent match doctors will proceed through an IRB pitch side concussion assessment procedure incorporating standardised questions and observations.
If the player fails any aspect of the assessment and has relevant symptoms he will not be able to return to the field of play and the substitution becomes permanent.
At its October meeting, the IRB Executive Committee permitted dispensation for Unions to trial the PSCA during the November international window.
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