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'There is always going to be a bad time to bring something in'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Chief World Rugby medic Eanna Falvey has reported he has received little negative feedback ahead of the July 1 changes to rugby’s concussion protocol. The latest alterations will result in the vast majority of players not returning to play within twelve days after a confirmed concussion.

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The introduction of these fresh regulations aimed at making it harder for a player that suffers a concussion from playing the following week for his team will come into force ahead of the July tours in the southern hemisphere.

It could potentially disadvantage teams such as England (in Australia) and Ireland (in New Zealand) given the travel times involved in calling up a replacement player from home due to the strengthened return to play process. 

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However, World Rugby medical officer Falvey believes that the touring teams will simply roll with the punches if and when something happens and that his briefings with team doctors on the changes have been mostly positive.  

Asked by RugbyPass about the reaction to the timing of the changes which are being introduced with Test teams on the move rather than a time when domestic club competitions are on, Falvey reported: “Nothing negative and look, there is always going to be a bad time to bring something in, there is always some competition, there is always the next thing.

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“There is a lot going on down south but you have to pick a time and go for it. Teams appreciate that, we haven’t had a lot of negative feedback, but we are there to support teams in helping them out and getting the job done,” said Falvey, the medic who used to work for Ireland and Munster as their team doctor before taking over from Martin Raftery at World Rugby.    

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In advance of the new regulations coming on stream, Falvey has spoken to the chief medical officers at the various unions over the last three or four weeks, so the planning and educational process ahead of the July 1 implementation has been collaboratively done.

“If you are heading off with a team on a tour like that you are preparing for injuries anyway, you are getting ready whether or not,” continued Falvey, putting himself in the shoes of a team doctor and imagining how they will handle next month’s tightened return to play process.

“Nowadays if you look at the average return to play time after a concussion, it is about 16 days anyway so if you have someone having a concussion on tour they are very unlikely to play again, so I don’t know if this makes a significant material difference. 

“If you are looking at the number of concussions you may have one or two players have a concussion over the course of the tour and they may or may not play again. That is a small number in terms of how it will affect the squad. Obviously, there are differences where if you are carrying two tens and one of the tens goes down, that is a big issue. 

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“But I think team doctors are aligned, we have briefed them in advance and one of the things you get good at being a doctor is rolling with the punches. You roll with the changes as they occur and you make do and you get on with things. With this situation, I haven’t had anyone get onto me directly about this. I’m sure there are people who have had to make changes to manage it but that is not a new thing.”

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