Rugby and Injury Prevention

As I write, it’s early afternoon in the Midwest of the United States.  I hope wherever you are as you read this you are enjoying yourself.  If you’re reading this over the weekend, you may be taking advantage of the many sporting offerings around the globe that involve one of the football ‘codes.’

It took me a long time, as an American, to learn that the ‘football’ I grew up with was  only one of many games sharing a similar genealogy;  and, what’s more,  in most of the world, the word ‘football’ would be understood to refer to a completely different sort of game than what I saw on an NFL Sunday.


The Paul Bunyan trophy,
awarded to the winner of
Michigan v. Michigan State
Football (American!) game

I’m probably ‘preaching to the choir’ if you’re reading this, but today there are many different types of football games being played around the globe.  There are several NCAA American Football games (I have an eye on the Michigan v. Michigan St. (MSU) game, having grown up in Grand Rapids, Michigan); there are of course many ‘Association football’ (soccer) games going on (Arsenal v. Liverpool is one of the highlight matches in the Premiership).  England upset Australia in Rugby Union earlier today; and the Edmonton Eskimos face off against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League this evening.

And more out of ignorance than intent, I am probably forgetting to mention any number of fixtures happening in Australian Rules football, Rugby League, or Gaelic football this weekend.

Lots of ‘football.’  Many ‘codes.’

Though most of my current practice in the Northern Hemisphere fall is devoted to caring for injured American football players, I wanted today to look at a different code.  I thought it the proper time to write about a recent news item on rules changes in Rugby Union.


The New Zealand All Blacks
performing their famous
Haka before a match with France

What prompted me to tack in this direction was a BBC article I read on line yesterday, “Rugby and Concussion:  Are Big Hits Bringing Big Headaches?”  There is controversy in the world of Rugby Union, according to the BBC, over how to manage game day concussions.

Barry O’Driscoll, a well-regarded member of the International Rugby Board’s (IRB) Medical Committee, has resigned in protest over proposed new rules for Pitchside Concussion Assessment (PSCA) in Rugby Union matches.  The new approach will replace what previously was a mandatory end to a player’s game and week rest period if a suspected concussion had occurred.  PSCA incorporates a functional assessment by a medical provider, which the BBC states includes the following:

  • A Pitch-Side Concussion Assessment can be asked for by a team doctor or referee if they suspect a player is concussed
  • The referee signals a PSCA has been requested via radio link and with three taps to his head
  • A substitute comes on while the PSCA takes place in pre-agreed place, usually a medical room
  • The injured player is assessed for symptoms, asked a series of questions – Where are we? What’s the score? etc – and given a balance test similar to the ones in drink-driving cases
  • One failed question, four balance errors and the presence of one or more symptoms means the player is removed from game*

*PSCA summary taken from BBC article

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