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Changes to age-group concussion protocols

SA Rugby has made significant changes to its concussion protocols in age-group rugby in an attempt to limit the potential risk of long-term effects sustained by players.

The changes are designed to allow players a greater opportunity to participate safely in the game of rugby for longer, and to reap the health, physical, and social benefits of playing the game.

The protocol changes involve distinguishing between only two age-group categories, players 18 years old or younger and those who are 19 years-old or older; having a stipulated stand-down period for players to rest; and mandatory visits to a medical doctor before taking to the field following a concussion diagnosis.

“The changes to the concussion protocols have been aligned with World Rugby’s procedures, and we believe it will play a significant role in preventing any potential long-term effects sustained as a result of concussion,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.

“It is important that participating schools and clubs, and the players themselves, understand the significance of these protocols and ensure that every step is implemented correctly, as the players’ well-being is paramount and should always be placed first.

“For these procedures to have the desired effects, however, the players, coaches, parents, teachers and school principals have to understand the benefits of the BokSmart programme and take the matter of concussion seriously.

“It is essentially an invisible injury and it could have serious consequences if it is not treated correctly from the outset. However, if recognised and managed appropriately, no concussion injury should ever end up catastrophic in nature or with any long-term debilitating outcomes,” explained Roux.

Under the new SA Rugby regulations, players 18 years old or younger who are diagnosed with concussion or who have concussion signs or symptoms, need to stand down from rugby for a minimum period of two weeks and have to be cleared by a medical doctor to enter the graduated Return-to-Play Protocol.

The Return-to-Play Protocol is a supervised and progressive stepwise re-introduction to playing rugby, and is dependent on the player being symptom-free throughout this process. Once they have fully recovered and have passed the first three physical activity stages of the process, and only if they have been symptom-free throughout, they would have to be cleared again by a medical doctor to participate in contact training. Only once they come through this final phase symptom-free, can they be reintroduced to match-play.

For players aged 19 and older, the same process applies, but with a stand-down period of a minimum of one week before the prescribed medical assessment and Return-to-Play Protocol.

It has also been recommended that schools establish a concussion register to ensure that the players who have suffered concussions are monitored and managed properly, and are returned safely to learning and to the game.

More information on Concussion and its management is available here:

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