World Rugby has announced the launch of a new panel of independent concussion consultants who will be instrumental in assessing when professional players can return to action following head injuries.
The ICC panel will provide expert opinion in determining when a player should return to action after successfully completing the current six-stage ‘graduated return-to-play protocols’ following a concussion.
The new ICC panel will commence operations at international level from this month, while, for now, domestic unions can either avail of the ICC panel or appoint their own.
World Rugby has also announced a new six-point player welfare plan. It includes:
1. "A focus on former players: advancing best practice in care, information and support for former players struggling or concerned about their health.
2. Innovation led by science and research: World Rugby will continue to bring together a variety of scientific perspectives on concussion in sport to make sure we’re learning from each development in the science and focusing investment into concussion and head impact in rugby studies in particular.
This means further investment in research and technology to improve player safety and optimise Head Injury Assessments and the application of the Graduated Return to Play protocols.
3. Continue to review and evolve the laws of the game to safeguard players: the two initiatives announced today – global law trials and the introduction of Independent Concussion Consultants – are the first of a series of actions planned in this area. This includes a dedicated focus on a more flexible approach at community level as well as a global forum on the game later this year, and acting on the outcomes of the ground-breaking study by the University of Otago in New Zealand to make any required adjustments at the community and under-age levels.
The following working groups will continue to monitor their respective specialist areas: Head Contact Process, Breakdown, TMO, Scrum and Community law.
4. A dedicated focus on the women’s game: recognising both the growth potential and unique nature of women’s rugby. Measures will include dedicated research investment across community and elite women’s rugby and women’s game specific law reviews.
5. Continued investment in education: we will strengthen the provision of information, tools and resources to everyone involved in the game when it comes to head impacts and player welfare. This will include a new Recognise and Remove head injury education programme and App, a best-practice safe tackle technique programme for the whole game, and rollout of the Activate injury prevention warm-up programme with proven concussion and injury prevention benefits across all unions and regions.
6. Open engagement with the rugby family: we will consult widely and deeply across the community and professional game, for men’s and women’s rugby. Where this means embracing non-traditional channels and platforms to reach rugby fans and players, we will do so.”