World Rugby 'winning' concussion battle
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont has praised “hugely encouraging” player welfare results from World Cup 2019.
World Rugby revealed that there is a 28 percent reduction in overall concussion incidence and a 37 percent reduction in tackle concussion incidence compared to the current elite competition average.
Japan 2019 was the first World Cup to feature the High Tackle Sanction Framework. Born of outcomes from the largest-ever study into concussion cause in rugby, the framework is an evidence-based process designed to aid a reduction in concussion risk by changing player behaviour from high-risk upright to lower-risk bent-at-the-waist tackles.
The Japan 2019 outcomes indicate promising early signs that the framework approach is effective. The combination of reduced concussion incidence and players adapting behaviour in response to the law application and zero-tolerance directive on head contact proved to be a strong driver of positive change.
Alignment between match officials and the off-field judicial team regarding the framework’s objectives saw yellow card sanctions at RWC 2019 increase by 74 per cent and red cards by 138 per cent versus the 2018 elite competition average. This tough deterrent was a direct contributing factor to a 28 per cent reduction in overall concussion rates (including a 37 per cent reduction in tackle concussion rates) compared to the 2018 elite competition average.
The framework was supported by the implementation of the most comprehensive player welfare standards programme ever operated at a rugby event, which included enhanced technology and strict mandatory criteria with which teams had to comply.
Beaumont said: “These hugely encouraging outcomes of this study endorse our unwavering evidence-based commitment to injury prevention, particularly our continued efforts to protect players from concussive events on the rugby field wherever possible.
“The significant reduction in concussion incidence provides compelling evidence of what can be achieved when competition owners, match officials, disciplinary officers, players and coaches fully buy in to the High Tackle Sanction Framework. Failure to do so can have significant player welfare and performance consequences.”
Rugby World Cup 2019 also saw an overall reduction in injury incidence from 90 injuries per 1,000 player hours in 2015 to 83 injuries per 1,000 player hours. Injury replacements per match also reduced from 2.08 per match in 2015 to 1.13 in 2019.
Within a package of current law trials, World Rugby is evaluating a High Tackle Technique Warning environment, which provides further motivation for player and coaching behaviour change by issuing off-field sanctions for poor tackle technique and rewarding positive behaviour change.
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