RFU, Premiership Rugby and RPA announce action plan to reduce head impacts and concussion risk


The England board and Premiership Rugby along with the Rugby Players' Association have announced an action plan to reduce the head related injuries and concussion risks.

The action plan also involves increasing player welfare and brain health for prospective, current and past players.

The expanded focus on head impact exposure sits alongside ongoing work to enhance the standard of head impact and concussion management within the professional game and the introduction of a new brain health assessment service for retired elite male and female players.

The decision to broaden out the approach to target head impacts generally in addition to concussion risk demonstrates the RFU, PRL and RPA’s ongoing commitment to look at all possible ways of continually improving player welfare.

The area of primary prevention will feature the use of "smart mouthguards" during the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons and the RFU have also urged the 13 Premiership clubs to limit contact training. This will allow staff to monitor head impacts in real time after successful trial with Harlequins men's team and Bristol Bears Women.

There will also be implementation of World Rugby's Graduated Return to Play protocols and Independent Concussion Consultant reviews while real-time Hawkeye videos will be used to assist Head Injury Assessments in the women's Premier 15s.

For the players, whose career has come to an end will be part of the scheme that will involve with The Advanced BRAIN Health Clinic which will open London later in the year to address any concern related brain health between 30 and 55.

Meanwhile, the Drake Rugby Biomarker Study revealed that 23 per cent showed abnormalities on brain cells after investigating 44 elite players between July 2017 and September 2019.

“Player welfare is at the heart of the work of the RPA and we welcome this research as it is imperative that our sport continues to make progress to address the long term brain health of the players," said Damian Hopley RPA Group CEO.

"The goal must be to reduce player exposure to head impact by removing unnecessary impacts. We acknowledge the need to work through all the available information and welcome the significant work that the RFU medical experts have devoted within this area.

“We look forward to clearer guidance and developments around head impact prevention and management going forward, especially within controlled training sessions. The specialist clinical service to assess brain health funded by the RFU and PRL is an important step in providing enhanced data and subsequent care for the players and the game.”

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin lauded RFU, RPA and Premiership Rugby for the action plan and is confident of setting a strong precedent as they look to battle concussion related damages.

“Rugby is united in its unwavering commitment to advance player welfare. At the centre of that mission is a multi-faceted focus on reducing head impact exposure and concussion risk at all levels of the game.

“The action plan launched by the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the RPA today is a strong example of that commitment, demonstrating a clear desire to explore rapidly-evolving technology and science.

"The instrumented mouthguard study across the men’s and women’s premierships will dovetail with the University of Otago community rugby head injury study to build a complete picture of head impacts across the sport and importantly how to reduce them.”