TheHEADCASE Essential Guide provides details of the programme and key information including concussion rates in rugby union, potential short/medium and long-term problems and the effects of second impact syndrome.
What is concussion?
Sport related concussion is a traumatic brain injury resulting from a blow to the head or body which results in forces being transmitted to the brain. This typically presents as a rapid onset of short lived impairment of brain function that resolves spontaneously.
This impairment results from a functional disturbance rather than a structural injury, and as such no abnormality is seen on standard hospital scans. A range of signs and symptoms are typically seen, affecting the player's thinking, memory, mood, behaviour, level of consciousness, and various physical effects. Clear loss of consciousness occurs in less than 10% of cases.
Recovery typically follows a sequential course over a period of days or weeks, although in some cases symptoms may be prolonged.
Concussion in Rugby
How common is concussion in rugby?
Concussions occur in everyday life and not just in sport. Rugby as a contact sport does involve frequent body impacts and therefore a risk of accidental head impacts, and thus a significant potential risk of concussion.
According to the data collected through the RFU’s Community Injury Surveillance & Prevention Programme (CRISP) in youth rugby (age 15 – 18) the most recent rate shown equates to 1 concussion per team every 10 games and 1 concussion per team every 25 games in the adult male rugby. In professional rugby it is 1 every 2-3 team games.
The rise in the rates seen since 2012/13 are almost certainly due to the increased awareness and the much lower threshold for suspecting concussion, and reflect the success of the awareness and education programmes, and media coverage.
Concussion and the RFU
The RFU recognises that concussion is an important player welfare issue in rugby, and takes its responsibilities very seriously. The RFU has a comprehensive risk management strategy which covers the key priorities of:
• Education & Awareness,
The strategy is managed and monitored by the RFU Concussion Risk Management Group, supported by an Independent Concussion Expert Panel. This Panel advises on RFU concussion policy and monitors emerging research, supported by the Economist Health Intelligence Unit who on a 6 monthly basis provide a summary of all research published, and a qualitative analysis of the key studies.
The HEADCASE programme is recognised as the leading concussion awareness and education resource in UK. It was launched in January 2013, and replaced the RFU’s previous awareness campaign; “Use Your Head” which had been running since 2007.
Player Safety Research: www.englandrugby.com/rugbysafe/research
Community Game First Aid & Immediate Care Guidelines: www.englandrugby.com/rugbysafe/playing-environment/first-aid-immediate-care-guidelines
Activate Injury Prevention Exercise Programme: www.englandrugby.com/activate
First Aid & Immediate Care courses: www.englandrugby.com/rugbysafe/education
RFU Regulations 9 and 15 and their associated guidance cover concussion:
World Rugby Concussion Policies and Education
Regulations relating to concussion: http://www.worldrugby.org/handbook
Guidance and Education: http://playerwelfare.worldrugby.org/concussion
Other Sources of Information:
NHS Choices: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Concussion/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Child Brain Injury Trust: https://childbraininjurytrust.org.uk
Supporting Head Injured pupils in Schools; http://www.shipsproject.org.uk
Brain and Spine: http://www.brainandspine.org.uk
Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust: http://www.thedtgroup.org/brain-injury
The information contained in this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for appropriate medical advice or care. If you believe that you or someone under your care has sustained a concussion, we strongly recommend that you contact a qualified health care professional for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. The authors have made responsible efforts to include accurate and timely information. However, they make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy of the information contained and specifically disclaim any liability in connection with the content on this site.