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Making player welfare the priority

Premiership Rugby will continue to prioritise player welfare in 2016 and head of rugby operations Corin Palmer believes a new link-up for the treatment of concussion will only help the cause even further.

This season, all Premiership Rugby players – alongside those in the Championship – have access to facilities at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health in University College London, at the University Hospital Birmingham Foundation NHS Trust and at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, in addition to drawing on the expertise gained at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court.
"Our priority over the last 18 months or two years has been changing the culture through online education," explained Palmer.
"We’ve been prioritising the education, awareness and management of concussion.
"Premiership Rugby is continuing to focus on educating the players and clubs, together with the RFU and RPA, with an online concussion education programme which has been undertaken by almost 1,500 players, coaches and officials.
"Now we’re delighted to announce that we have formal services to support our players with neuropsychological issues or ongoing repetitive concussions thanks to this link-up with the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health in University College London, University Hospital Birmingham Foundation NHS Trust and  Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust.
Frimley Park's Colonel Alan Mistlin is a consultant of Rheumatology and Rehabilitation at Headley Court and Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust and believes that the expertise acquired treating military personnel is easily transferred to rugby.
He says that concussions and their effect on players must be taken seriously and the fact that Premiership Rugby, the RFU and the RPA are engaging with the issue is a positive step.
"The most important thing is that concussions are being taken seriously," said Mistlin.
"The second most important thing is that most people get better without any intervention.
"We'll be looking at the players with a more complicated picture who haven’t got better.
"Most of the soldiers we see are from training accidents and sporting injuries. Everything from rugby to football to falling off walls at event training – they’ve all come to us for many, many years.
"The treatment is very easily translatable to rugby and other sporting arenas."
"Education is very, very important because if players understand that they are likely to get better then they are more likely to come forward.
"Concussion is a brain injury – it may not show up on scans but it is a brain injury. It can affect patients at a chemical level so it has to be taken seriously."
Palmer says that this link-up shows how serious Premiership Rugby, the RFU and the RPA are about changing the culture towards concussions in the sport with players encouraged to seek treatment rather than ignoring something that could have repercussions down the line.
He points to the positive feedback surrounding the online education programme as proof that players and clubs are taking the message on board.
"We conducted an official review of the education module at the end of last season and the users came back to say that it was something they widely support," added Palmer.
"We will continue to prioritise making sure that we are innovative and look at every possible method of ensuring that our players who have injuries are diagnosed and treated correctly."

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