Following talks with the Medical Officers of its three National Unions, SANZAR has implemented the enhanced Head Injury Assessment (HIA) that was introduced by the International Rugby Board (IRB) on 1 June to supersede the Pitch Side Concussion Assessment (PSCA) tool.
It will be applied to Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship with immediate effect having been introduced during the recent June Tests.
SANZAR CEO Greg Peters said, “From the moment the IRB announced the introduction of the Head Injury Assessment, we made it a priority to take steps that would lead to the enhanced protocol being introduced to SANZAR competitions as soon as possible.
“Player welfare is a primary concern for our sport and we are therefore supportive of the IRB’s introduction of the HIA which will be in effect at Super Rugby from the resumption of the competition this weekend following the June Test window.”
Medical Officers from the National Unions have communicated with doctors at all Super Rugby franchises to ensure they are familiar with the updated protocol and will work closely with them to ensure a smooth transition. This is in addition to the IRB’s Union education.
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Accepted for publication in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the study highlights that prior to the global trial of the Pitch-side Suspected Concussion Assessment (PSCA) tool 56 per cent of players assessed and left on the field of play were later determined to have sustained a concussion.
Since the PSCA trial began in 2012 the percentage has reduced to 13 per cent with this reduction attributed to the combined strategy of education and implementation of the research-driven assessment. Despite these positive results the IRB is committed to driving cultural change within the sport and further reducing the percentage.
Data from the trial has also enabled the IRB’s independent concussion working group to identify enhancements to the PSCA tool, which is used to assess a player when the diagnosis of a head injury is unclear. If symptoms are evident the message remains recognise and permanently remove the player – the PSCA tool should not be used.
Two components of the PSCA tool have been expanded, with the memory test strengthened and the balance test altered, enhancing the information team and independent doctors have available to them when making a return to play decision.
In order to accommodate the expanded PSCA components and following a successful pilot trial, the IRB Executive Committee has approved an increase in the time permitted to undertake the assessment from five to 10 minutes. The new trial will operate from June 1.