English rugby chiefs have today announced a new action planned aimed at reducing concussion risk within men’s and women’s professional rugby.
The move comes amid mounting pressure on the The Rugby Football Union (RFU), World Rugby and the Welsh Rugby Union as concerns grow over the impact of contact sports on the brain.
Nine former players are bringing a landmark legal case against the three leading bodies over alleged failures to protect players from the risks of concussion.
Last season the RFU and the Sports Wellbeing & Analytics successfully trialled PROTECHT instrumented mouthguards with the Harlequins men’s and Bristol Bears women’s squads.
The RFU plan to offer the instrumented mouthguard technology to all 13 Premiership clubs from this coming season and beyond.
The technology measures the impact on the head from various points of contact over the course of training and competition.
Findings from the project were telling and could revolutionise English rugby. The findings included:
- Male players were exposed to more head-on collisions than their female counterparts.
- The ruck, a key area of the game that has come under fire in recent years, provides the biggest risk of head impact injury.
- The tackle height, something that rugby officials came down hard upon last season, also greatly affected the intensity of head impact.
The RFU, in conjuncture with the Premiership, also announced plans for post-career brain heath assessment and care for players.
The Advanced BRAIN Health Clinic will begin operations later this year at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health in London.
It has been welcomed by healthcare professionals and former players alike.
Steve Thompson, who has become the figurehead for the high profile lawsuit against three of the game’s governing bodies, has been influential in forcing the RFU’s hand over such moves.
Thompson has said that he suffers from early onset dementia and that he cannot recall winning the Rugby World Cup with England in 2003.
Simon Kemp, the RFU’s medical services director, said: “The RFU is fully committed to advancing our understanding of the short, medium and long term consequences of head impacts and concussions so that we can ensure we can make continued improvements in player welfare.
“We welcome any research that helps to advance our knowledge.”