Johannesburg - The International Rugby Board on Friday have welcomed the findings from an independent study that evaluated the accuracy of the pitch-side concussion assessment process that has operated as a trial in elite rugby.
The study, which covered more than 700 matches and 165 head injury events between October 2012 and June 2013, determined the following:
-- Prior to the introduction of the pitch-side concussion assessment (PSCA) players were treated on the field and on the run, resulting in 56 percent of players returning to the field of play later determined to have concussion.
-- Since the introduction of the PSCA, the number of players returning to the field of play who were later determined to have sustained a concussion has reduced to 12 percent, with the PSCA intervention playing a major role in cultural change.
-- With an 84.6 percent accuracy, the PSCA tool is proving successful in identifying players with concussion and therefore informing their removal from the pitch.
The positive conclusions are significant as previous concussion assessment tools used on the field and on the run failed to match the accuracy established with the PSCA.
"The findings of the report have informed and guided the IRB’s concussion working group in introducing enhancements to the PSCA tool and head injury assessment protocols," the IRB said in a statement.
"Under the new process -- renamed the Head Injury Assessment (HIA) -- 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, the IRB executive committee has increased the time permitted to undertake the assessment from five to 10 minutes. The new trial has been operational since June 1.
IRB chief executive Brett Gosper said: "Concussion management and education sit at the very top of the IRB’s player welfare strategies aimed at informing, supporting and protecting players at all levels of the game.
"We are committed to changing culture via research, expert medical guidance and ensuring that players, coaches, match officials and parents at all levels recognise the symptoms of concussion and remove any player with clear or suspected concussion."
IRB chief medical officer Martin Raftery added: "The IRB welcomes the outcomes of this important independent study, which indicate that we are making solid progress in protecting our elite players through the head injury assessment process."
The report has also been welcomed by the world’s top players.
Australia international and International Rugby Players’ Association player advisory group chairman Benn Robinson said: "The players welcome the important advances made by rugby with respect to the assessment of head knocks and concussion.
"At the coal face, we are certainly witnessing a culture change from players and support staff due to these stricter concussion assessment protocols.
"The findings of this study are testimony to the fact ... that rugby is continuing to make sound progress with regard to concussion management."