Tag Archives: Rugby Union

Archaic Thinking/Management of Concussion Not Just a N. American Issue

4 Apr

I have cataloged this problem many times in many sports across the world.  It seems that perhaps the focus and glare is greatest here with North American sports (mainly football and hockey), but this problem extends further.  This issue perhaps came to a head in the UK over the past week with this article by Tom English;

Barry O’Driscoll played rugby for Ireland in the Five Nations championship of 1971.

As a respected doctor (whose son was team doctor for Ireland and the Lions in the recent past) with a background as an international full-back he became an important figure on the International Rugby Board where for 15 years he held positions on the medical, anti-doping and disciplinary committees. Until late last summer, when he resigned.

Dr. O’Driscoll left his post because of the way the International Rugby Board (IRB) was/is handling concussions on the field and in general.  As an aside, the IRB is a founding partner of the Zurich statement as well.

What would make a highly trained and well-respected doc – with rugby in the blood – step away?  Take a look, specifically at what happened to his nephew;

After one collision too many that day Brian O’Driscoll lost his bearings, was clearly unsteady on his feet and had to be helped from the field, like a boxer assisted from the ring. You did not need experience in pathology to know that the great man was out of it for a moment in time. Yet a few minutes later he was back on the pitch, supposedly as bright as a button and fully recovered.

He was back on the field because ?????;

There is an accompanying rule now – still on trial – and it states that if a player with suspected concussion can pass a series of tests lasting five minutes then he can be allowed back into the fray: the Pitch Side Concussion Assessment (PSCA) – or the five-minute rule.

Even worse the “new” rule was not even in place when his nephew sustained his concussion, leading the good doc to question what the sanctioning body and the medical board was doing;

“Rugby is trivialising concussion,” he says. “They are sending these guys back on to the field and into the most brutal arena. It’s ferocious out there. The same player who 18 months ago was given a minimum of seven days recovery time is now given five minutes. There is no test that you can do in five minutes that will show that a player is not concussed. It is accepted the world over. We have all seen players who have appeared fine five minutes after a concussive injury then vomiting later in the night. To have this as acceptable in rugby, what kind of message are we sending out?

“If a boxer cannot defend himself after ten seconds he has to have a brain scan before he comes back. And we’re not talking ten seconds for a rugby player, we’re talking maybe a minute that these guys are not sure what’s going on. They don’t have to have a brain scan, they have to have five minutes where they have to stand up straight without falling over four times, they have a basic memory test – ‘What’s the score? Who are you playing against? Which half did it happen in? And do you have any symptoms?’

“These questions should serve as a landmark for when you examine them six hours later to see if they’re getting worse or if they’re bleeding into their brain. That’s why you ask them, not to see if they can go back on. They are already concussed at that point. You don’t need to ask questions to find that out. If six hours later their responses are worse than they were earlier you say ‘Wait a minute, this shouldn’t be the case, is this guy going to bleed?’ That’s why you ask the questions and so it has always been. But we’re going in the other direction now. We’re going from being stood down for three weeks to one week to five minutes with players who are showing exactly the same symptoms. The five-minute rule came out of the blue. I couldn’t be a part of it so I resigned from the IRB. It saddened me, but I couldn’t have my name attached to that decision.”

As you can clearly see some places are not quite ready to accept the real issue of concussions – not the actual injury – the mismanagement of the injury once it occurs.  If the IRB places the new “five-minute pitch side rule” into place they are going in the absolute wrong direction.

If any player in any sport shows clear signs of concussion they should be removed and not allowed back in, period.  Even Zurich, which the IRB is part of states this.  Dr. O’Driscoll is merely saving his reputation by stepping aside, and in my opinion it is the exact correct move.

 

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Aussies Study Concussions in Former Collision Sport Athletes

26 Feb

From Sunday Night down in Australia a story of how research on the brains of former footballers may shake up the sport;

Greg Williams is an AFL legend, and one of the hardest men ever to play the game. In his glittering 14-year career, ‘Diesel’ won a premiership, two Brownlow Medals and was named in the AFL’s Team of the Century. .

Shaun Valentine is another tough bloke: like Williams, he copped countless on field wallopings in his career in rugby league. Williams retired at 34, Valentine at just 26. Both men are now struggling with everyday life as they battle the long-term effects of so many blows to the head during their respective careers. Both men are married with children – and both are facing the biggest challenge of their lives.

In what’s been a world first study here in Australia, the results of tests on retired professional players are revealed, and they will send shockwaves through all the codes.

The video (The price of playing the game) tells the story of Williams and Valentine and gives the results of what they know to this point.  Make sure you click the link above to find it.  You will notice that there is no mention of CTE in the Aussie players – yet when they go to the US for the story CTE is the first thing talked about.  It is understood, that currently most researchers in Australia are not ready to accept CTE as a diagnosis or even its existence in former footballers.  The focus is more on dementia Continue reading

Rugby Union to Install New Concussion Rule

21 Aug

As part of the new rules in Premiership Rugby the installation of a “concussion bin” will begin September 1st.  Union and the sport of rugby took some criticism when recently played matches included some players that seemed to be dazed or even incapacitated after a hard knock.  Because of this the new rule was created;

If a team doctor or referee suspects that a player may have suffered concussion during an Aviva Premiership match, that player will be required to leave the field for five minutes to undergo cognitive tests.

If that initial suspicion is confirmed in a pitch-side assessment, the concussed player will not be allowed to return and the temporary substitution will be made a permanent one.

Not only does the team medical official have the ability to have the player removed the referee can be more aggressive in getting a player off the field.  The hope is that this will catch more players that have suffered a concussion and make sure they are removed, but if you remember the NHL tried this at the end of the 10-11 season and it was basically abandoned the following year.

Not only do I think this is a productive idea, but it is one that should be adopted by the sports that have limited substitutions, such as soccer and Aussie Rules.  Five minutes are sufficient to get the job done, but more time would be better.  Alas, this is a step in the right direction.

Rugby Concussion Discussion

23 May

Part of the email I received about the AFL injuries were some papers written about the concussion issue in the National Rugby League (NRL), Rugby Union and of course Footy.  The first article was written by Fredric Gilbert, PhD and Bradley J. Partridge titled The need to tackle concussion in Australian football codes.  The gist of the article was about the still hidden injury of concussion, relating to reporting and return to play.  The authors wanted to point out that the cumulative effects of concussions are just now surfacing and that “all contact sports should adopt and evaluate the effects of precautionary policies that require concussed players to leave the field.”

What I really appreciated was the section devoted to youth sports;

Reducing the risk of concussive and subconcussive impacts is even more critical at the non-professional level, where there is a large population of vulnerable young players to whom a significant duty of care is owed.6 Most reported cases of second-impact syndrome (when a brain that has not healed from a previous injury suffers an additional trauma) that led to death or severe disability have occurred in young athletes.19 Yet most amateur teams do not have qualified health professionals or other staff who are trained to detect and assess concussion. At this level of sport, many concussions likely go unrecognised and incorrectly managed.20,21 However, if players and sporting organisations at the elite level change their approach to head injury and concussion, it is hoped that those at amateur levels will do likewise.

Although the state of athletic trainers – physios in Australia – is currently unknown to me it seems that the push is again for correct oversight for the youth.  Gilbert and Partridge seem to be addressing the same issue we have been here about youth concussions, which is great to see.  If the top-level of sport addresses the issue head on then it will trickle down.  Just like those players sloughing off the concussions to play – and the young players trying to emulate – management can work the same way.

The article above did prompt an editorial reply from some heavy hitters Continue reading

Rugby Star On Career Precipice

21 May

A former player for possibly the world’s most recognizable rugby team may be on his way out due to concussions.  The All Blacks – the New Zealand national team – is the height of sport in New Zealand and a nation holds the players in amazingly high standards.  To say the All Blacks are a union team would be a serious understatement.  The All Blacks are the current World Cup holder, ranked number one, have one 75% of their matches and hold both Bledisloe Cup and Freedom Cup (significant markers).  They are Rugby Union.  Any player that makes the roster is one of the best, this can be said for Benson Stanley.

Stanley now plays for the Blues in the Super Rugby League – a league that extends two continents and three countries.  This past weekend Stanley may have seen his career ended;

Blues coach Pat Lam says that he is concerned about Benson Stanley’s health and playing future after he suffered concussion playing against the Crusaders.

The former All Black centre’s career is now hanging in the balance after this latest concussion which is his fifth major head knock in less than a year.

Lam said that it is possible that Stanley will have to go Continue reading

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