The Australia Rugby Union has begun trailing a ‘blue card’, aimed at senior and junior clubs, so the referee can send a player off if they show signs of a concussion. Once a player receives a blue card they will not be allowed back on the pitch during that game and will not be permitted to return to rugby until they have passed a number of tests to prove their recovery.
This is an important provision as it removes both the player and the coach from the decision to take a player off the pitch.
In my view, measures such as these should be trialled here also, even if only at school boy rugby level to begin with.
There has been a substantial amount of research published in recent weeks with regard to concussions and head injuries acquired through sport, particularly football and rugby.
A study carried out in Northern Ireland found that 37% of schoolboy rugby players in the North suffered at least one injury during the season. Furthermore, concussion was the most common reason for these adolescent rugby players to stop playing for over four weeks.
According to doctors, children are much more vulnerable to brain injuries than adults.
This time last year, over 70 doctors and health experts from the UK and US signed an open letter advocating for a tackle ban in school rugby in the UK.
We need to allow adolescents to play sport as there are numerous benefits. However, it is imperative we ensure that they are playing in the safest way possible.
Therefore, I am calling for a ‘blue card’ or a similar provision to be introduced here in Ireland and to begin trials in school boy rugby as soon as possible.