Rupeni Caucau try and nice assist


Matt Toomua Falcon vs the All Blacks


Visser penalised for preventing lineout


Schalk Brits runs into Wayne Barness


Henry Tuilagi swats Zee Ngwenya away


Massive try saving hit by Israel No.8


Random great tries from 2008


Malakai Fekitoa smashes Conrad Smith


Seru Rabeni crunching tackle on McFadden

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How dangerous are concussions in Rugby?

SANZAR will be trialling new concussion rules in both the Rugby Championship and ITM Cup this season. With that in mind, here is a fascinating report from One News that focusses specifically on the dangers of head knocks in sport.

There will be a mandatory five minute off-field assesment period adopted over the coming weeks for any player that takes a bad knock to the head during a match. Team and independant doctors will run a series of tests while the player, who has been replaced, sits out of the game temporarily.

If it's deemed to be a concussion, the player will be replaced permanently, as was trialled succesfully during the recent Junior World Championship in South Africa.

Former All Black Steve Devine wasn't fortunate to have such a ruling during a career that spanned ten years, and almost as many concussions. His final knock stayed with him for two and a half years, as he suffered from fatigue and constant migraines. 

"It was tough. It was horrible for me and people around me to see how I was struggling," Devine told stuff.co.nz. "A lot of other things you can fix. You can throw in a new hip and be up and going again in four/five months. Unfortunately one brain is all you have and you can't sub in a new one."

In his first test for the All Blacks he was knocked out twice in the first half. A year later he was knocked out in the Super 12 semifinal. The nuggety halfback kept at it. By 2006 however he started to notice something was wrong after taking 'three in three weeks'.

"One time I got home from training and woke up in the hallway. I couldn't even make it to the bedroom or lounge. I was so tired I lay down and went to sleep right where I was."

He was sidelined for 6 months after speaking to his team doctor, but by 2007 he was off the migraine medication. He made his return but took a 'big shot' against the Sharks in Durban, and then in the NPC opener he took his final knock, signalling the end of his career.

"Doc just told me 'that's enough'," Devine said. He's since explained that he's not bitter and doesn't blame rugby, but is hoping that players of all ages will take his case as an example of when to be honest with oneself and seek help, or that coaches say enough is enough.

"I cringe when I see head collisions and kids stay on when you can clearly see they're not well. It will catch up with you at some stage. At some stage it will bite you in the arse," he added.

While professional rugby players are now viewed to be bigger, stronger, and faster than ever, research shows that the game has not increased in danger since the last official report in 2002.

"At the last IRB meeting we looked at all the good quality data since the turn of the millennium. There simply isn't a year-on-year rise of injury risk," said Dr Simon Kemp of the RFU.

Some Rugby injury stats:

- 50% of injuries occur in tackles, with running and the ruck are the next most common cause
- Under 18 schoolboys have half the injuries of the professional game, and Under 10's even less
- Clubs will have 1.9 players injured (for 3 weeks) for every game of the season 
- Hookers and flankers have the most injuries, due to their involvement in tackles and collisions
- 48% of injuries are lower limb related
- The 'Dead Leg' is the most common injury

The video below, which focusses on both rugby and other sports, is aimed to keep players aware of the risks of repeated blows to the head. It is not meant to scare you away from playing rugby.

The IRB have launced an online training module which aims to inform and educate players and officials on the treatment and management of concussions. You can view that here.

Thanks to stuff.co.za, One News, the RFU, and the youtube uploader

Posted at 10:09 am | 29 comments

Tana Umaga helps Colin Charvis after huge Jerry Collins hit

Gio Aplon knocked out with brutal elbow from teammate

Motu Matu'u massive hits and great sportsmanship

Tony Woodcock and Adam Kleeberger head clash

Good sportsmanship after another Owen Franks head clash

Brendon Leonard future uncertain after Munroe headclash

Paul O'Connell knees Brian O'Driscoll in the head

Rugby injuries in the professional era

The Stirling Mortlock and Jamie Roberts headclash

Chris Rossouw knocks himself out with this no arms tackle

The Ali Williams clash with Schalk Burger

Richard Kahui & Matthew Tait's big headclash

Richard Bands headclash with Richie McCaw

Posted in See it to Believe it

Viewing 29 comments

Pretzel August 15, 2012 2:40 pm

I am no Rugby official, nor sports injuries expert, but I truly fail to see why this actually needs to be "trialled"...

I mean to me it is sort of common sense is it not? Guy gets head injury, take him off, check him over, stick him back on if he is fine...why would this ever require a trial? I think this should be implemented in all rugby codes, in both the NH and the SH straight away... don't bugger about with trials. This is peoples lives and careers at stake here, if it is something that is believed to limit injuries then why not get on with it? Remember the law changes a few years ago? (passing the ball back into the 22 etc) those are the things that trial periods are for, not common sense things like this!

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Manuel August 15, 2012 6:52 pm

I agree with you to some extent. However, this is not amateur rugby we're talking about, it's professional rugby where players are seen as "a good" rather than a "person". Not by his teammates of course but by the sport institution he belongs to. This is what regulations are for, because institutions don't see players as you or I see them. Regulations are made to ensure a player is seen as a "human" rather than "a good", putting his health before other matters.

Cheers!

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Manuel August 15, 2012 6:52 pm

I agree with you to some extent. However, this is not amateur rugby we're talking about, it's professional rugby where players are seen as "a good" rather than a "person". Not by his teammates of course but by the sport institution he belongs to. This is what regulations are for, because institutions don't see players as you or I see them. Regulations are made to ensure a player is seen as a "human" rather than "a good", putting his health before other matters.

Cheers!

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kefaloskev August 15, 2012 3:25 pm

A fascinating, disturbing article. Firstly, a big thankyou to Steve Devine for the frank and honest way in which he described his history of injury and the effect it has had on his life. In the Professional era, players are getting bigger and are better conditioned physically but one thing you cannot do is grow a thicker skull to absorb more knocks! Players are stronger and faster and that means, by definition, that the head collisions are going to be more traumatic. It is not only the elite players who are suffering but also players at all levels.
Of special concern to me is the effect on young players. I was struck (no pun intended) by the comment of the father of the boy who sustained an injury playing Aussie rules... miss the rest of the season and if he gets three concussions.. hang up his boots. When I was 16 I sustained a serious head injury and I was unconcious for 20 hours. Just six weeks later, I was back playing Rugby. A number of concussions later... I am beginning to wonder?
Finally, I have to agree with Pretzel's comment.. Why bugger about with trials.. and how many other serious, life long injuries will be caused whilst the trial is being conducted. Thanks for a most thought provoking and worrying article.

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Stubby August 15, 2012 3:47 pm

Agree whole heartedly.

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jonnyboy71 August 15, 2012 4:37 pm

Taken together with the chronic traumatic encephalopathy evidence from NFL (Dave Duerson, Junior Seau), rugby needs to take this issue very seriously indeed.

There are too many yahoos saying "BOOM MASSIVE HIT" when a huge prop blindsides a back with a shoulder hit, you see the head snapping back and you're thinking "that's a few million brain cells gone".

Rugby's a tough enough game without intentionally inflicting, or celebrating, head injuries which could well destroy the player's life when they retire from the game, voluntarily or because a doctor said "give it up while you've got a chance".

I took a couple of concussions last year and I've had a fair few before that in and outside rugby. It's a worry.

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Facepalm August 15, 2012 6:27 pm

To be honest players nowadays often make big hits for the sake of hurting the opposition player. They don't think how they can most benefit the team. e.g. Sometimes a quick chop tackle round the ankles may be more suitable than a blindside shoulder to the face. That's not to say I don't love watching big hits, I just think sometimes they seem slightly pointless in the context of the game and serve little purpose other than proving you're Mr Billy-Big-Bollocks.

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Facepalm August 15, 2012 6:30 pm

The previous RD post is a good example of this. http://www.rugbydump.com/2012/08/2718/rodrigo-roncero-puts-ronan-ogara-on-his-backside-in-2008
Roncero sees O'Gara and just goes for him. He knows it won't help his team but he wants to show off how much stronger he his than O'Gara.

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Snaryl August 15, 2012 8:32 pm

Anyone got a count on the number of head knocks Tatafu Polota-Nau has taken? In the last three years I can remember him taking about 10, all of which left him groggy or flat out unconscious. Yet he keeps getting up and playing on

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jeeves August 15, 2012 9:33 pm

I read a great New Yorker article about the effects of head injuries in the NFL.http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/19/091019fa_fact_gladwell I think Union has to be really careful that the sport doesn't get the balance wrong with regard to power and skill.

Personally think that lowering the high tackle point,would protect the head more and encourage a more passing game, which in turn favours the quicker lighter player.

Brian Moore has always been interesting on how the seemingly small change of hookers not having to hook the ball because of routinely crooked feeds, tends to bigger collisions in the scrum. Just an example of small changes having a long term effect. Like the head injuries.

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Andrew August 15, 2012 10:00 pm

Well that should be a alarm signal for everyone, cause Rugby, Australian or American Football, are very strong sports, and the injuries that are made in these sports is also serious, have a thought at the spine injuries that can be done in the scrum and tackles, any many others that occur because of bad position on tackling or bad position in scrum, bad habits, like tacking with curved back and so on, can be often avoided by proper technique and proper position, learned properly from coaches, and medical staff. there for I think its mandatory to introduce a Physical therapist or medical staff with bio-mechanical studies in the learning process, specially in children. lots of injuries can be avoided, not all but some of them. On topic: sometimes performance come first, so as a athlete I've always chosen the best for the team, and I think most will do the same, no one will back down after 3 hits, 3 concussions, as as far as I know, there isn't a solution for axonal stretch, or something to slow down the smashing of the brain against the skull. Respect for all the athletes that know the risk and still they continue... thats true sacrifice

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Pretzel August 15, 2012 10:46 pm

Not really. If someone said sitting on your bum all day is the healthiest thing for your body would you do it? Or keep doing the stuff you enjoy?

An athlete that knows the risk and stops playing is producing far more self sacrifice than some knucklehead that thinks "it won't happen to me"....

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Andrew August 15, 2012 10:05 pm

Well that should be a alarm signal for everyone, cause Rugby, Australian or American Football, are very strong sports, and the injuries that are made in these sports is also serious, have a thought at the spine injuries that can be done in the scrum and tackles, any many others that occur because of bad position on tackling or bad position in scrum, bad habits, like tacking with curved back and so on, can be often avoided by proper technique and proper position, learned properly from coaches, and medical staff. there for I think its mandatory to introduce a Physical therapist or medical staff with bio-mechanical studies in the learning process, specially in children. lots of injuries can be avoided, not all but some of them. On topic: sometimes performance come first, so as a athlete I've always chosen the best for the team, and I think most will do the same, no one will back down after 3 hits, 3 concussions, as as far as I know, there isn't a solution for axonal stretch, or something to slow down the smashing of the brain against the skull. Respect for all the athletes that know the risk and still they continue... thats true sacrifice

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Dan August 16, 2012 1:06 am

I read that the NFL has been thinking of testing a system where a concussion monitor would be placed into the mouthpiece. If a player was hit so hard that it is set off, this type of evaluation could take place on the sidelines. It could be a technology to help players while not completely taking away from the game.

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Pretzel August 16, 2012 11:07 am

That's interesting, I wonder if it is fail safe? I mean I wonder if there are different angles you could get hit which wouldn't produce a reading? Also jumping on the negative bus, I remember seeing a hit on here where the guys gum shield went flying out of his mouth, I don't think he got any sort of injury, and it is rare, but I wonder if things like that might mess up any potential readings...

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Uncensored August 16, 2012 2:33 pm

Lol at people making NFL comparisons. You people don't actually think Rugby hits are even 1/50th of what NFL hits are, do you? In the NFL they run about flying through the air like superman, shoulders, helmets and all, from large distances at great speeds.

In Rugby players line up from a few yards away and wrap each other. The force and dangers are miles apart. Rugby doesn't have big enough hits to produce the devastating effects that sports like American football see. Even Rugby League, which comes closer, is still considerably safer. Rugby is more comparable to head knocks in a sport like soccer.

The real elephant in the room for rugby is the mass of life-ending, literally but more often figuratively, spinal injuries. The inherent danger and barbarism of rucks and scrums is a far more pressing issue, especially in age grade Rugby.

The most effective way to erase the problem is to change the culture, fortunately that's been happening already as you can tell by responses. Culture is changing and people are more in the know about concussions and their dangers. If we can get the same awareness on the archaic gladiatorial nonsense and thuggery in rucks and scrums then we'll be getting somewhere.

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Pretzel August 16, 2012 6:00 pm

Yes because Steve Devine is a liar and it never happened. Or should we use the age old youtube adage of "Fake and Gay" for this video....

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Uncensored August 16, 2012 8:27 pm

I'm not saying it doesn't happen, I'm saying the sports are worlds apart. People need to stop talking about the NFL. Rugby injuries and concussions should be taken on their own merits. Rugby is not American Football. Anybody who thinks so has not taken part in American Football and felt the full force of the tackles in their game.

I don't know where you got the idea I'm calling him a liar? I'm not saying he's lying, I'm saying he's one man and the rates and severity of concussions in rugby doesn't come close to that of the NFL. We shouldn't change rugby or look to change rugby on the strength of sporting statistics from a different sport.

We should judge dangers and make decisions to Rugby on the game of Rugby and the injuries suffered within it. So far most of what I've seen from Rugby fans is sensationalist nonsense predicated on problems suffered by NFL players.

I am NOT refuting Steve Devine, I'm saying lets look at Devine, lets look at players like Berick Barnes and Stanley, and any ex player with a history of significant concussions, and make conclusions and changes to the game based upon our own - and not on NFL players. And lets not muddy the waters between concussions in Rugby and concussions in American Football.

I don't think that's too outrageous a position, but I could be out of touch.

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Pretzel August 17, 2012 2:54 pm

I have dabbled in American Football at University, they had a team and I thought I'd see what the hype was about the game. It was "fun" to a point, but it was certainly not rugby. So I do in some ways have a general idea of how things in the sport work, really there is no stability or structure to the game as far as "tackles" are concerned, especially when making comparisons to rugby, however it does not mean that the two games are totally dissimilar.

Knocks to the head in AF (american football) are common occurrence.. Helmets clashing, clumsy knocks etc etc etc... In rugby as I am sure you are well aware, contact with the head; in theory, should not happen... Thus making the sports different. HOWEVER contact to the head DOES happen.. thus making the sports similar...(of course helmets in AF do absorb the blow more so these days)

I understand what you're saying about players, i.e Berrick Barnes who seems like he has a glass jaw sometimes.. but what do we do? Analyse each player before they enter the game and see how prone they are to injuries?

AF has a long history of campaigning for concussion awareness. As far as I am aware, rugby union, league, aussie rules etc, do not, therefore would it not be a strong starting point to take pages out of the AF book? Lets face it, a concussion is a concussion. There are varying grades of concussion, but they all mean "damage to the brain"...

So to somewhat conclude I cannot see how this new plan would be a bad idea to install on ALL players, as you pointed out, some players are more prone than others, therefore during their short time off the pitch they will have been found to have a concussion and those thicker headed knuckle draggers will come lumbering back on the pitch after their assessment...

p.s I just had a quick re read of what you wrote: I do not think a STANDARD rugby hit is a fair comparison of an AF hit, however there are plenty weak AF hits and plenty HUGE rugby hits both legal and illegal...

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Uncensored August 17, 2012 10:07 pm

Yeah okay, well we probably agree but I put my opinion across wrong. I just get annoyed when I see Rugby fans bring up the NFL over and over and over. Yes they are ahead of us in study and technology, but the results they've uncovered are not necessarily the results that we will uncover with our own research.

I actually agree with the proposed concussion rules in Rugby, just to make that clear. I'm not objecting. The more we can do for player safety the better is my view. But my main argument is that we should bring in regulations on the back of our own findings within the sport of rugby, and not the finding of other sports.

I hate when the topic of concussion comes up and everyone brings up the NFL or the NHL as if they're precisely relevant to Rugby. The frequency and severity is very different in Rugby, so lets do our own investigation(as the IRB are doing).

I personally feel there are Rugby fans, and media outlets, who are jumping the gun, based on information and issues within a sport that is not our own sport. Rugby is not American football. Lets keep the concussion issue in perspective.

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Pretzel August 18, 2012 12:13 pm

Sorry, I think I perhaps misunderstood your point. I do agree with you that we should do our own research, however I think that information highlighted in NFL and NHL should be used wisely and perhaps as a basic starting point, but I agree it should not be used and applied 100% to rugby for 2 reasons:

1) As you said the sports are different and on appearance AF seems a lot more wild and less controlled.
2) Unless tests are carried out in RUGBY there may be underlying issues which are not noticed that could be greater cause for concern. For instance concussions occurring in an element of rugby where this is no counter-part in American Football...

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joeythelemur August 20, 2012 1:06 pm

Sorry to extend the American FB and rugby comparison, but I think this article has some useful context.
http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8218700/neuropathologist-dr-ann-mckee-accused-killing-football-be-sport-only-hope

Focused on the primary scientist studying concussion effects, what I gleaned from it is how the cumulative effects of sub-concussive hits can actually be far worse than the occasional bell ringer. Anyway, I agree that they are different sports (with its blocking on every play, american FB has lots of these sub-concussive hits whereas rugby tends to have more continuous contact but no blocking) but a concussion is a concussion and research on the effects is bound to be valuable for both sports.

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Guy August 16, 2012 7:50 pm

Well, yeah, let's start comparing two sports that are miles apart in every sense and make some useless conclusions.

The point of this video is to shed some lights on the rather unknown long term complications of concussions. Boxing might have been a good subject in this video too.

After seeing this video I will make damn sure I will monitor my 12 year old son, who will start the new season in a week time, more closely than in the last six seasons. After all, an adult can make his own bad decision, children are OUR responsibility.

BTW, a lot of respect for Steve Devine for speaking out about this issue. Reminds me a bit of Kirwan, speaking about his strugle with depression a few years ago...

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Ted August 18, 2012 3:48 am

"In Rugby players line up from a few yards away and wrap each other. The force and dangers are miles apart. Rugby doesn't have big enough hits to produce the devastating effects that sports like American football see. Rugby is more comparable to head knocks in a sport like soccer."

WTF? You're either joking or you don't know what you're talking about.

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Pretzel August 18, 2012 5:53 pm

In all honesty this new idea (Which I believe should be implemented straight away for all hemispheres!) Is definitely what I would have liked to see happen after Gio Aplon got knocked out.

The related links gives notice to: "Gio Aplon knocked out with brutal elbow from teammate" I said it at the time, as did MANY others, that it was a shock and somewhat a disgrace that Aplon was allowed to play on. As it turns out he appears to have been "fine" (to what degree I do not know). Really though these are the incidents which should require a mandatory check up off field. I mean I think I'd like to go as far as saying any player that is KO'd should not return to the field for the duration of the game AT ALL! I am not sure how well that would be received by Rugby fans/players/coaches alike, but it is my honest (and uneducated) opinion on the matter.

I don't know if I would agree to leave the field on my own accord if I was KO'd and got up feeling "fine" but I think it should be compulsory for players to be removed.

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Jogol August 20, 2012 4:32 pm

Damn this is kinda scary :s End of the year, i might go to New Zealand or Australia, im taking one year break(or more if possible), and i was really looking forward to play rugby at a higher level. Even tho i love rugby i do apprehend having constant headaches for the rest of my life... Do many players have declared having these problems?(I play on the wing or fullback so no scrums but i really enjoy tacling and going in a ruck)

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Colombes August 21, 2012 11:59 am

A frank and honest testimony by Devine.
Concussions are clearly part of the game. in rugby, u can't diminuate or avoid the agressive factor or you lose games.
i just see 2 manners to minimize the risks:

> Impose severe bans for high tackles to punish the dangerosity. but as we've seen the public and fans don't always understand that......

> Impose strict rules on the pitch. you often see players trying to stay on pitch by pride when they're clearly "out". Refs should impose subs when necessary.

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Guest5 August 22, 2012 3:47 am

I don't think a dead leg should be considered an injury lol

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marcus2 December 22, 2012 6:48 pm

This is the number one safety issue in sport; it has to be faced and handled effectively or the whole game will be undermined. We love the game so let's protect its integrity with rules to minimize concessions and reduce the ill effects when they do occur.

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