A leading American neurosurgeon has labelled the International Rugby Board’s implementation of the Pitchside Suspected Concussion Assessment (PSCA) protocol as “irresponsible”.
The sport’s governing body introduced the PSCA last year as part of its bid to improve player welfare and recently extended the trial for another year – with some key changes – despite widespread concern that they were endangering those that play the game and reported links to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) – a degenerative disease found in individuals who have been subjected to multiple concussions.
The test sees players who have suffered a suspected concussion leave the field for five minutes while the doctors determine whether they are fit enough to return to the pitch by asking the player a series of questions. If the player is suspected of having concussion he is not allowed to return to the game. Previously medics were forced to assess suspected concussion on the field with only players with blood injuries allowed to leave the field of play.
IRISHMAN Peter Robinson has called for a “Ben’s Law” to be established, forcing rugby teachers and coaches to be trained in treating concussion after a coroner made the historic ruling that his son died from head injuries suffered in a schools game.
The inquest into the death of the 14-year-old was concluded in an emotionally-charged Belfast courtroom yesterday and Coroner Suzanne Anderson ruled that Ben had died from brain injuries caused by “second impact syndrome”. The court watched video footage of the game between Carrickfergus Grammar School and Dalriada in January 2011, which showed Ben left dazed and groggy after a tackle. The coroner stated: “I am satisfied that he sustained concussion in the first four minutes of the second half. Unfortunately, neither the team coach nor the referee were made aware of his neurological complaints and he continued to play.”
Researchers have started gathering data on the severity and frequency of hits at club level rugby.
“That data suggests you are looking at something that is not far off what you see American football, that is hard, frequent and significantly hits going in game after game,” he says.
Symptoms of dementia usually appear between 12 and 16 years after the career begins and include memory, speech and personality problems, tremors and a lack of coordination.
A link between playing rugby and early onset dementia has been established by a brain injuries expert who has identified the first confirmed case of the degenerative disease being caused by the contact sport.
Dr Willie Stewart yesterday claimed that the discovery suggested “one or two” players competing in the Six Nations every year may go on to develop the condition.
In an interview, the Glasgow-based neurologist described how he had examined sections of brain tissue in a retired rugby player and found abnormal proteins associated with head injuries and dementia.