More concussions reported in professional rugby than ever before and now account for a quarter of all injuries

 
Joe Hall
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George North concussion
George North, who has a history of concussions, returned to action after appearing to be knocked out last month (Source: Getty)

More concussions were reported by Premiership Rugby clubs than ever before last season, according to new data on injuries in the professional game.

For the fifth season in a row, concussion was the most commonly reported injury by top flight clubs, accounting for 25 per cent of all match injuries.

The annual investigation into injuries from the Rugby Football Union (RFU), Rugby Player's Association (RPA) and Premiership Rugby recorded the highest rate of concussions last season since its monitoring period began in 2002, with 15.8 per 1,000 hours and a significant jump from a mean of 5.9 per 1,000 hours.

The risk of concussions — and the possible long-term degenerative brain damage it could cause — has been increasingly placed under the spotlight in the past year.

Former Saracens captain Alistair Hargreaves and Ireland prop Nathan White announced their retirements after receiving repeated concussions, while high profile players such as George North and Dylan Hartley have suffered notable injuries.

Read more: Chris Robshaw to miss Six Nations after England flanker undergoes shoulder surgery

Meanwhile Sale Sharks became the first Premiership Rugby club to face legal action over the issue when former scrum-half Cillian Willis sued his former team over their alleged mishandling of a concussion that led to his retirement.

Saracens Alistair Hargreaves
Former Saracens captain Alistair Hargreaves was forced to retire following a concussion injury (Source: Getty)

The rise in reported concussions has been put down to an increased awareness in the game of the injury and its potential damage.

Ahead of the 2014/15 season, World Rugby also widened the definition of what could be considered a concussion to include being clearly dazed, demonstrating definite confusion and behavioural change.

In 2015 World Rugby introduced a 10 minute head injury assessment (HIA) period for team doctors to be given access to video footage, but criticism remains over the handling of players' health.

An independent inquiry into Northampton Saints' decision to allow star winger George North to return to the field of play last month after appearing to be knocked out found the Premiership club had not followed protocol correctly.

"Our members accept that injury is an inevitable part of the game, however, they also expect appropriate welfare provisions to be in place for them and the game must continue to focus on mitigating risk through research, education and the appropriate management of injuries," said rugby director for the Rugby Players' Association Richard Bryan.

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