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NZRL focuses on concussion issue

March 14, 2014

NZRL focuses on concussion issue

With the media and public scrutiny intensifying over sporting head injuries, NZ Rugby League believes it’s well placed to deal with concussion cases on and off the field.

Opening games of the new NRL season have drawn increased attention to an issue that has vexed codes around the world, with the Australians stiffening their competition rules around shoulder-charge tackles and sideline concussion testing over the past couple of years.

Domestically, NZRL remains focused on the prevention of concussion and education on its seriousness.

For several years, the national body has worked with ACC to turn around its injury record. Under its “more than just a game” philosophy, NZRL has achieved notable success through a combination of education, skill development and policy.

Five years ago, ACC paid out on almost six rugby league injuries per 100 players, but that number has since halved to less than three per 100.

In many cases, the NZRL measures extend further than those in the NRL and have been in place longer.

“Our utmost priority is to provide a safe environment for our players to enjoy their rugby league experience,” says NZRL community development general manager Dain Guttenbeil.

“That means doing all we can to achieve a playing career free of serious injury, but also so they can contribute positively to our community off the field.

“Our focus is on injury prevention through policies that meet our responsibility to our participants, including the shoulder charge ban, restricting youth from playing open grades, compulsory use of mouthguards, reducing impact in junior rugby league and improved education.”

The shoulder charge has been banned from domestic rugby league since 1996, and game officials, coaches and trainers have already been armed with a sideline concussion kit that sets out a process to be followed before a player can return to action.

NZRL referee development officer Luke Watts also reminded local officials of their concussion responsibilities this week.

“Coaches have the first duty to the wellbeing of their players, but referees also have a duty of care to the players on the field – their safety and welfare is paramount,” says Watts.

“The referee retains the right to remove any player from the field if they suspect a concussion and not allow them to return to the field of play if they deem they are still suffering the effects of concussion.”

The NZRL medical council, spearheaded by sports injury prevention expert Professor Patria Hume, will meet next month and review existing policies to ensure they reflect best practice on concussion treatment.


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