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NZR's Chief Scientist wants KO'd players stood down for 'at least' two weeks

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by Matt Impey/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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New Zealand Rugby’s Chief scientist Dr Ken Quarrie believes rugby players should not return to play after concussive incidents for ‘at least’ two weeks.


Dr Quarrie – an expert in injury prevention and risk management – believes the sport should follow the example set by the AFL in this regard.

Speaking in a private capacity on Twitter and not on behalf of the NZR, Quarrie was discussing a paper on the NRL and a return to play protocols across contacts sports.

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Quarrie – who has over 20 years of experience working in rugby union and is a member of three World Rugby advisory groups – said that the current HIA return to play protocols don’t go far enough.

“If it was up to me players who have been concussed would not be able to return to play for *at least* a couple of weeks (preferably longer). Because there is evidence that symptom recovery precedes physiological recovery, I would endorse a longer no-play period than currently permitted.

“AFL have increased the time already, and I think professional rugby would be well-advised to follow suit.”

With concussion one of the most common injuries in rugby union, a two-week minimum return to play protocol would have a significant effect on squad availability in the professional game.


Recent cases of players returning to play for the following weeks match after a HIA have drawn fire. The British & Irish Lions were heavily criticized when Exeter Chiefs hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie and Northampton Saints flyhalf Dan Biggar returned to the field a week after incidents, a not uncommon occurrence in the sport.

Former England scrumhalf and member of Progressive Rugby, a concussion awareness advocacy group, berated the Lions for allowing Cowan-Dickie to play a week after being flattened in the Gallagher Premiership Final in Twickenham.

“Luke is unconscious for over 20 seconds. Possibly 40-60 secs. How can he play the following week? I am absolutely disgusted that the powers that be allow this to happen. A stain on our great game,” tweeted Bracken in June.

A Progressive Rugby spokesperson said: “For Dr Quarrie to publicly state that he, as a key advisor to World Rugby, believes the return to play protocol following concussion should be at least 2 weeks and preferably longer is a game changer. It further strengthens Progressive Rugby’s position that the current protocol allowing players back on the field in 6 days cannot be justified and a 12-day minimum should be immediately adopted.”


Players used to have to sit out for three weeks before the introduction of HIA protocols which allow players to return once they are passed specific, predetermined cognitive checks and are clearly by a physician.

According to Quarrie: “In the UK, which has, in my opinion, the best injury surveillance system in professional rugby, the average number of days unavailable for selection following concussion was 16 in the latest report.”


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