SA Rugby has made significant changes to the concussion protocols in age-group rugby.
The changes have been made in an attempt to give players a greater opportunity to safely play the game for longer and to reap the associated health, physical and social benefits related to the game.
While distinguishing between players 18 years or younger and players 19 years or older, the new protocols also include a stipulated stand-down rest period before players are allowed back on the field of play after medical consultation.
‘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.’
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.
This is a supervised and progressive stepwise reintroduction 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.