For the Players
For the game

Players back new concussion programme

October 16th, 2014

Pioneering changes to the way concussion is managed across professional rugby in England will result in a significant step forward in players’ attitudes, according to Harlequins prop Mark Lambert.

A joint venture between Premiership Rugby, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and The Rugby Players Association (RPA) has produced a comprehensive package of processes designed to improve understanding on the treatment of concussion.

The first element focuses on enhancing awareness and education of the injury through a compulsory online module to be taken by all registered professional players, coaches and referees.

The interactive programme lays out what concussion is and how to recognise the symptoms alongside the consequences of the injury and how to manage it effectively.

Failure to complete the module will initially result in a fine with the added option of suspending a player, coach or official until they have taken it.

Lambert, who is Quins’ representative on the RPA Players’ Board, insists this module is an essential development in capitalising on a growing shift in the ethos of professionals.

“The RPA are there to give the players a strong voice in the professional game and at the moment the biggest issue is concussion, the way it’s managed and the education around it,” he said.

“This module being launched is a hugely important and significant step forward in the culture of the game.

“For too long concussion has been seen as something which you shrug your shoulders at and think it’s just a bang on the head and move on.

“The more we’ve learned about the brain has shown you have to manage it properly as it’s a serious injury. You can’t underestimate the potential repercussions of not doing anything.

“There are still a range of opinions amongst players to be honest. Some guys, like myself, understand through having been concussed themselves and it’s a very disconcerting thing.

“Yet there are probably other guys who think it’s just a bang on the head, get up and play on.

“It starts with the players – if we are honest and open and say we are not right while also looking out for each other, the better it is for the sport.”

In addition to the module, the three parties have also focused on improvement to game day management and the graduated return to play for players who have suffered a concussion.

The Head Injury Assesment (HIA) process will be used in all Aviva Premiership Rugby, LV= Cup and European games matches this season, with cases of confirmed or suspected concussion resulting in the affected player being removed from the pitch.

The memory test has been strengthened and the balance test altered, while the assessment has also been extended from five to ten minutes.

Another significant move will see all concussion cases and HIAs that occur be independently reviewed to assess and advise on the on-field management of these incidents.

The review process will be conducted by two experienced medical practitioners and also linked to the RFU disciplinary process, allowing sanctions in cases of negligence or foul play.

Lambert admits that the professional game has a crucial role to play in pioneering a renewed understanding of the dangers involved with concussion for young players and supporters to follow.

“Views have changed during my career but there is still a way to go across the board,” he added.

“The important thing is that we’re not trying to discourage people from playing or telling them, don’t put yourself in a situation where you might get a whack on the head, because that’s the nature of the game.

“We all love rugby and that’s part and parcel of it. It’s not about the fact you might get a whack on the head, it’s if that happens and you are concussed, you know how to deal with it.

“This educational process will mean players and fans are no longer impressed by someone who was smashed and got up and kept on playing. They will think he’s an idiot and that shouldn’t have happened.

“There will be some critics who say you can’t wrap people up in cotton wool, it’s a physical sport.

“It’s not about that – it’s about unseen things that if they’re not managed properly and underestimated can become a huge issue.”