The vast majority of elite-level rugby union players diagnosed with a concussion will be unable to return to play for 12 days following changes introduced by the sport’s world governing body from July 1.
- Current rules allow players who fail a head injury assessment to return seven days later
- Recommendations from independent concussion task force sparked rule change
- A player’s history of concussions will now be taken into account according to new evaluation criteria
World Rugby is following the recommendations of an independent concussion task force after a review of the latest scientific evidence.
Current regulations allow players who fail a head injury assessment during a game to be back on the pitch seven days later if they follow return-to-play protocols.
While that may still be the case for some, provided they get approval from an independent concussion consultant, the majority will be out of action for five more days.
The updated criteria used to judge how quickly players can return after showing obvious concussion symptoms now includes their history of concussions.
Those new criteria will be in place for next month’s men’s Test series which will feature clashes including England v The Wallabies in Australia and Ireland v The All Blacks in New Zealand.
They will also affect the Wallaroos’ next fixtures, with Australia set to face New Zealand in two Tests in August.
“It will be a new mindset for coaches and players,” said World Rugby chief medical officer Dr Éanna Falvey.
“Our approach means that it is now extremely likely that a player diagnosed with a concussion will not play in their team’s next game.
“World Rugby firmly believes that the scientific evidence supports our protocols, but we are constantly monitoring and testing them to ensure they are suitable for modern play.
“We recognize that there are differences in concussion symptoms and concussion history, and this process allows us to further protect elite players by individualizing their rehabilitation.
“It also maintains in place all the benefits of previous protocols, which have been so successful in beginning to address the underreporting of symptoms, which evidence shows, while improving, remains a problem.”
The changes were also welcomed by World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin.
“There will always be head impacts and there will always be concussions in rugby, so we’re never going to eradicate that with the nature of the sport we have,” Mr Gilpin said.
“But we want people to know that we have a safe game to play at all levels and that the sport is doing its best to protect and ensure the safety and well-being of players.
“We are making progress. There are a lot of areas where we have made progress. You can never do too much in this area.”