Premiership Rugby can today confirm new measures for the treatment of concussion that reaffirms our commitment to make player welfare our No 1 priority.
At the launch of the new Aviva Premiership Rugby season it was announced that all Aviva Premiership Rugby players will now have access to facilities both at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health in University College London and at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (Headley Court).
"This is a very significant development, and one we have been working on for a while," said Corin Palmer Premiership Rugby's Head of Rugby Operations. "So we are proud to announce this today.
"It will ensure a dedicated service for players with ongoing issues and/or repeated concussions, alongside individual case management from assessment to discharge. All of our players will have access to this service.
"It our duty to ensure that players who suffer concussion get the best care possible.
"Everyone understands the ground-breaking work that is carried out at Headley Court, work that is respected across the world.
"The treatment there will utilise military expertise developed to deal with head injuries to help Premiership Rugby players."
Helping players who have suffered a concussion is only one part of Premiership Rugby's work in this area, which also involves:
- A world leading mandatory concussion education programme for all players, management and match officials
- A pitchside concussion management programme
- A campaign to deliver cultural change in rugby union, alongside the RFU and RPA, in rugby union on the subject of concussion.
Last season, in partnership with the RFU and the RPA, Premiership Rugby implemented the world's biggest concussion education programme with more than 1,400 Premiership Rugby players, coaches and officials taking part in the mandatory programme.
"Rugby is taking concussion very seriously and it was important that we were able to ensure all referees, coaches and players can obtain an in-depth knowledge and awareness of the issue," said Palmer.
"In partnership with the RFU and the RPA we are able to deliver that via a training system that is understandable, interactive and accessible.
"I am delighted to confirm this will happen again, starting next month covering all players, management, support staff and match officials across Aviva Premiership Rugby, Green King IPA Championship and England representative teams including the women's side and 7s.
"Cultural change is the key to our response to concussion so this mandatory programme is integral to our objective."
Premiership Rugby also believes the media and supporters have a huge role to play, in cultural change, Palmer adding: "We need to implore everyone to stop talking about players with head injuries being brave to carry on. Players with suspected concussion should be replaced immediately – it is a brain injury."
The final part of Premiership Rugby's concussion management comes with our pitchside Head Injury Assessment (HIA).
Palmer said: "There can still be some confusion about the HIA and its objectives so let's be clear – if a player has a suspected concussion he is replaced immediately. Recognise and remove are our key watch words when it comes to this.
"The HIA is used to help doctors manage head injury events where symptoms of concussion are not immediately apparent.
"The HIA assessment tool includes a memory test and a balance test and takes place over 10 minutes."
As part of the HIA process we now get support from the use of video technology.
"We introduced video technology to help with the diagnosis and treatment of all head injuries last season. Each one is reviewed and analysed during and after matches," said Palmer.
"At all Premiership Rugby grounds doctors have access to live TV feeds and replays when they conduct a Head Injury Assessment to help their decisions on whether to permanently withdraw a player from the field of play.
"There is also an independent review of all head injury events whether confirmed, suspected or suspicious. These reviews are conducted by two experienced independent medical practitioners who review the match footage and seek further information if needed from team medical staff. The review process is linked to the RFU disciplinary process to ensure optimal accountability and transparency."