After the controversial incident involving the treatment of Northampton Saints’ George North and his head injury during their game with Leicester Tigers in the Aviva Premiership on 3 December, and the subsequent Concussion Management Review Group investigtion whose findings were released this week, World Rugby has this evening issued its own statement regarding the findings.
The sport’s governing body said:
“World Rugby’s number one priority is player welfare and our primary concern is the welfare of George and all players. It is therefore disappointing that apparent non-compliance with the sport’s elite head injury protocols led to George remaining on the field of play when he should have been immediately and permanently removed.”
Additionally, World Rugby released a series of clarifications regarding head injury prevention and management within the elite level of the sport (via World Rugby):
- It is apparent that the well-established head injury protocols defined within the Tournament Player Welfare Standards were not fully adhered to at the match in question. These protocols are mandatory under condition of adoption of the HIA process in elite competitions.
- The player should have been immediately and permanently removed from the field of play with a suspected loss of consciousness.
- A cornerstone criteria of HIA adoption in elite events is an individual risk stratification on all players, which is aimed at identifying and protecting high-risk players based on medical history. It is clear that George is such a player.
- As a tool to test for suspected concussion, the HIA is successfully protecting players at the elite level and less than four per cent of players with a confirmed concussion at Rugby World Cup 2015 remained on the field following their injury. Prior to the HIA, 56 per cent of concussed players returned to play following their injury – a dramatic and positive reduction.
- While the player should have not have undertaken an HIA given apparent loss of consciousness, the HIA is based on the SCAT 3 assessment tool. Such side-line assessment has been endorsed as best practice by the recent Berlin Concussion Consensus Conference
- The untoward review incident review process (as stipulated within HIA adoption criteria) is designed to identify issues of non-compliance and reduce the risk of future repetition.
The governing body also went on to say:
“While recognising that there is always a risk of human error, we will seek further information from the RFU regarding the factors behind the apparent non-compliance with World Rugby protocols and the outcomes reached by the independent review group. World Rugby will also continue to work proactively with its unions to ensure best-practice is implemented and followed in order to reduce the risk of a repeat incident within elite competitions.”
Although it seems both the RFU and Premiership Rugby would very much like to draw a line on the issue, World Rugby have their own questions on the handling of North and the subsequent investigation that took place.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena