World Rugby has increased the minimum time out of competitive action for players who have suffered significant concussion from 7 to 12 days, in a move welcomed by campaigners.
The rule change, which comes into force on July 1, will mean that players will realistically miss two weeks of action because of the way the club schedule works, and that in international tournaments, they will skip at least one game.
As things stand, they can plausibly still play the following weekend, providing players come through all relevant checks. There is a loophole, though, as players could come back quicker depending on their concussion history and the severity of their injury.
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Rugby union’s world governing body has made the decision following a study of 17 independent experts who have been involved in an independent concussion working group.
“Our approach means it is now overwhelmingly likely a player diagnosed with a concussion won’t play in their team’s next match,” said World Rugby’s chief medical officer, Dr Eanna Falvey.
“[But] when a player is ready to return in seven days, they can do. The idea that all concussions should be treated the same is not supported by this approach.”
The move has been widely welcomed, but there is some concern about the loophole. World Rugby’s chief executive Alan Gilpin says going for a one-size-fits-all solution would not have been correct: “Other sports have gone for blanket stand-down periods but we don’t believe that’s the right approach.
“History tells us that when there was a blanket stand-down in the professional game that drove underreporting [of symptoms] by players.”
Progressive Rugby, a campaign group which has called for greater protection for players who have suffered concussion, says they will not stop pushing for further change.
“Whilst long overdue and not the perfect solution, this is a positive step and will prevent most elite players from being exposed to extreme and unnecessary risk,” said the group.
“It is also welcome acknowledgement for our members, who have long held grave concerns around this flawed protocol. However, while undoubtedly a victory for player welfare, the journey is not complete.”
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