- Record numbers attend fourth IRB Medical Commission Conference
- Range of medical education courses to be rolled out
- Focus on Sevens player welfare, concussion assessment and match day doctor role
With the continued commitment of the IRB and Member Unions to reduce the risk of injury in Rugby and promote best practice, almost 100 medical experts gathered in Dublin this week to discuss topical issues surrounding the improvement of player welfare.
Among the main issues discussed at the fourth annual IRB Medical Commission Conference were the implementation of Working Group guidelines, the roll-out of education programmes, a focus on the welfare of Sevens players as well as an update on the Pitch Side Concussion Assessment (PSCA) trial.
The meeting of a record number of medical experts, elite level team doctors and independent experts from northern and southern hemispheres made it an excellent opportunity to discuss trends as well as for knowledge transfer.
The IRB announced at the Conference that it is launching a suite of medical education courses. The courses will range across four levels from the generic entry level IRB Rugby Ready through to an entry level First Aid in Rugby course.
The next step will be a more formally accredited immediate care in sport course, before reaching an advanced level. These courses are aimed at Unions who do not have their own medical course provision and have been developed by a panel of experts from around the world.
The IRB will concentrate on developing a workforce of IRB licensed medical educators who can deliver the Level 1 First Aid in Rugby course within their own Union. This will be underpinned by some knowledge transfer via a dedicated online site. Over the next two years regional courses will be run at Level 2 and 3 aimed at healthcare professionals. These courses will be staffed by IRB Trainers and identified medical educators.
The online education element was also highlighted at this week's gathering, with high praise for education modules on www.irbplayerwelfare.com. Interactive learning modules that were launched last November were well received and medics noted that users felt better informed after using the online tool.
Speaking at the Conference, IRB Chief Medical Officer Dr. Martin Raftery said: "A huge amount of work has gone into developing education guidelines, with a lot of enthusiasm among medics at the Conference this week for what has been proposed. Education is key, and the new medical resources that will be available on www.irbplayerwelfare.com are an essential tool and resource that can benefit people involved in all levels of the Game."
With the IRB and Member Unions committed to ensuring best-possible concussion diagnosis and management, medics and team doctors were briefed on the latest updates from the ongoing Pitch Side Concussion Assessment trial.
The international Conference heard that its findings demonstrated the strength of the PSCA, its contribution to player welfare and that the assessment has been very well received by players, referees and team doctors.
With Rugby Sevens growing around the world and its inclusion in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, this year's Medical Commission Conference saw an increased focus on enhancing Sevens player welfare.
The proposed standardisation of the role of the match day doctor was further outlined at the Conference, with the specifications to be considered by the IRB Council in May 2013.
A key point at the Conference was that injury rates in elite Rugby have returned to levels comparable before the Game went professional in 1995. An aim of this Conference is 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 in a bid to put players first.
The Conference has been the springboard for a suite of medical and player welfare policies that are already benefitting the Game, and aims to further build on education such as the online tools on www.irbplayerwelfare.com and best practice game preparation techniques on www.irbrugbyready.com.
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.