The RFL has enhanced the measures designed to ensure the long-term safety of all Rugby League players by amending its policies on serious head injuries.
As well as the existing guidelines on dealing with serious head injuries, which includes removing a player if he showing any signs of the symptoms associated with concussion or similar head trauma, the RFL is implementing a strict protocol across the whole game.
The amendments have been introduced following a comprehensive review led by the RFL’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Chris Brooks, to ensure that practice within the game is in line with both current best practice in sport and the 2012 Zurich Consensus.
“Whilst there has not been a verified case of concussion having long term effects in Rugby League, we do take these medical finding very seriously,” said Dr Brooks.
“Medical evidence suggests that repeated concussion may cause disability in some shape or form during later life and the new policies will ensure that the welfare of Rugby League players remains paramount.
“The RFL has a long and proud history of prioritising player safety and so it is important that protocols are introduced to minimise the risk of long-term damage.”
In line with a number of other sports governing bodies around the globe, the RFL will utilise SCAT3 technology, a standardised tool for evaluating injured athletes for concussion, which features tests on a player’s verbal and motor responses.
Any player who suffers a serious head injury during a game also has to be reported to the RFL within 24 hours of the incident, so that the player can then be monitored closely, allowing ultimately for a safe return to playing field.
“Previously the guidelines we had concerning concussion dealt with situations in the same way that the ruling suggests,” said Dr Brooks. “The only difference is that those guidelines have now become a strict protocol for medical staff to follow.
“As the medical report outlines, long term exposure to head injuries can have serious effects in the future. Enforcing this protocol could prevent life changing injuries, which is something that obviously both the players and the sport want to avoid.
“Included with the new ruling are steps and milestones that a player suffering from the injury will have to undertake before being allowed to return for another game. These steps will be enforced by the RFL.”
In summary the RFL’s Concussion Policy is now as follows:
- Players who continue to play or return to play too early when concussed face significant health risks;
- Concussion is hard to diagnose and can only be treated by rest which must be appropriate to age group;
- All players must have a registered CogSport baseline;
- Players with diagnosed concussion or who display any of the signs below MUST BE PERMANENTLY REMOVED from play;
- Traumatic convulsion and/or tonic posturing;
- Confirmed or suspected loss of consciousness;
- Unsteady on feet and/or disorientated or confused;
- Where a player suffers a head impact but does not show the signs above or diagnosis is not immediate he must be assessed OFF THE FIELD, preferably in the medical room;
- Once removed from the field for assessment the player may not return for 10 minutes;
- SCAT3 (a diagnostic tool attached) must be used to support clinical decision making during this assessment;
- All players diagnosed with concussion must follow the Graduated Return To Play (GRTP) protocol with the earliest possible return to play being 144 hours (6 days) from the incident;
- Medical staff must inform the RFL of each incident of concussion and confirm when a player has been signed off as fit to return to play;
- The RFL will monitor both incidents of concussion during matches and that the reporting and GRTP protocols have been followed.