IRB To Review Pitchside Concussion Tests
The International Rugby Board (IRB) will review its controversial in-match test for concussion, the global governing body has announced.
The Pitchside Suspected Concussion Assessment (PSCA), which has been in place for a year, came to prominence during the British and Irish Lions’ 41-16 series-clinching win over Australia in Sydney earlier this month.
Barely five minutes into the match, Wallaby back-row forward George Smith was involved in a fearful head to head collision with Lions hooker Richard Hibbard which left the Australian unsteady on his feet, and in the eyes of many observers he was clearly concussed.
Yet Smith was allowed to return just over five minutes later, a move that caused alarm within both rugby and medical circles, after passing the PSCA.
“It obviously affected me. You saw me snake dancing off the field. I passed the (concussion) tests that were required within those five minutes and I got out there,” Smith said afterwards.
Former Australia international Peter Fitzsimons, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, said Smith’s return was a “disgrace” and asked: “In what other field of employment would an employee who had just suffered major brain trauma be allowed/encouraged to get back to it five minutes later?”
However, the IRB, in a statement issued from its Dublin headquarters, insisted the PSCA had led to a rise, not a reduction, in players being taken off as a result of concussion.
“The PSCA is designed to give teams and match doctors time to assess cases in which concussion is not immediately apparent and since its introduction as a global trial in 2012 has proven highly successful, leading to 25 percent more players being removed from the field of play permanently following a head impact,” the statement said.
The review, which will be overseen by the PSCA working group, is designed to assess the PSCA “functionality and compliance” in a bid to “ensure clear and consistent management of suspected concussion cases and further enhance best-practice delivery”, the IRB said.
IRB chief medical officer Martin Raftery insisted the PSCA was a guide and should not be the sole determining factor in whether a player be stopped from continuing to take part in a match.
“The PSCA is intended to be a supportive tool for physicians in the elite Game. If a player is clearly displaying the signs of concussion, that player must be removed from the field of play and should not return to play.”
But the start of the PSCA trial saw Dr Barry O’Driscoll, himself a former Ireland international and the uncle of Irish great Brian O’Driscoll, resign as the IRB’s medical advisor.
He warned rugby was “trivialising” concussion, telling Scotland on Sunday in March: “They are sending these guys back on to the field and into the most brutal arena.
“It’s ferocious out there…There is no test that you can do in five minutes that will show that a player is not concussed…To have this as acceptable in rugby, what kind of message are we sending out?”