The IRB has welcomed the positive findings from an independent study evaluating the accuracy of the pitch-side assessment tool.
The International Rugby Board has welcomed the positive findings from an independent study evaluating the accuracy of the pitch-side assessment tool and process that has operated as a trial in elite Rugby.
Peer-reviewed and published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM), “The International Rugby Board Pitch-Side Concussion Assessment Trial: A pilot test accuracy study” determines that Rugby's approach to the management of head injuries in the elite Game is successfully enhancing player protection.
The study, which covered more than 700 matches and 165 head injury events between October 2012 and June 2013, determined the following:
â€¢ Prior to the introduction of the PSCA players were treated on the field and on the run, resulting in 56 per cent of players returning to the field of play later determined to have concussion
â€¢ Since the introduction of the PSCA, the number of players returning to the field of play who were later determined to have sustained a concussion has reduced to 12 per cent with the PSCA intervention playing a major role in cultural change
â€¢ With an 84.6 per cent accuracy, the PSCA tool is proving successful in identifying players with concussion and therefore informing the removal from the pitch
The positive conclusions are significant as previous concussion assessment tools used on the field and on the run failed to match the accuracy established with the PSCA.
The findings of the report have informed and guided the IRB's concussion working group in introducing enhancements to the PSCA tool and head injury assessment protocols.
Under the new process – renamed the Head Injury Assessment (HIA) – two components of the PSCA tool have been expanded, with the memory test strengthened and the balance test altered, enhancing the information team and independent doctors have available to them when making a return-to-play decision.
In order to accommodate the expanded PSCA components and following a successful pilot trial, the IRB Executive Committee has approved an increase in the time permitted to undertake the assessment from five to 10 minutes. The new trial has been operational since June 1.
IRB Chief Executive Brett Gosper said: “Concussion management and education sits at the very top of the IRB's player welfare strategies aimed at informing, supporting and protecting players at all levels of the Game.”
“We are committed to changing culture via research, expert medical guidance and ensuring that players, coaches, match officials and parents at all levels recognise the symptoms of concussion and remove any player with clear or suspected concussion.”
IRB Chief Medical Officer Martin Raftery added: “The IRB welcomes the outcomes of this important independent study, which indicate that we are making solid progress in protecting our elite players through the head injury assessment process.”
“Guided by a panel of independent concussion experts, we base our policies on research and the outcomes of this study have enabled the IRB to further enhance the Head Injury Assessment tool, driving forward the protection of players.”
“While the BJSM study illustrates that there has been a significant decrease in concussed players being returned to the field of play, the IRB remains committed to research and education to change culture throughout the Game to ensure a zero-tolerance approach to gambling with the welfare of players at all levels.”
The report has also been welcomed by the world's top players. Australia international and International Rugby Players' Association (IRPA) player advisory group chairman Benn Robinson said: “The players welcome the important advances made by Rugby with respect to the assessment of head knocks and concussion.”
“At the coal face we are certainly witnessing a culture change from players and support staff due to these stricter concussion assessment protocols. The findings of this study are testimony that to the fact that the delivery of quality education programmes around concussion is providing assurance to players that Rugby is continuing to make sound progress with regard to concussion management.”
IRPA Chief Executive Rob Nichol added: “The study confirms we are making positive progress and highlighted areas within the head injury assessment process that we have been able to improve upon.”
“The key continues to be increasing awareness among players and team management to recognise and remove. It is vital to the health and safety of players that they are upfront and honest when they take a knock and to report symptoms to their medical support staff. Likewise the head injury assessment process and test relies upon the diligence and integrity of medical staff and team management to be fully upskilled and implement protocol that is free of undue influence.”
Meanwhile the IRB has launched an enhanced concussion education website at irbplayerwelfare.com featuring public guidance and key information in English, French, Spanish and Russian with Japanese, Portuguese and Italian set to be added shortly.