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Concussion and chronic traumatic encephalopathy: International Rugby Board’s response
  1. Martin Raftery
  1. Department of Medical, International Rugby Board (IRB), Cronulla, New South Wale, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Martin Raftery,Department of Medical, International Rugby Board (IRB) 249 Woolooware Rd, Cronulla, NSW 2230,Australia;martin.raftery{at}

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The media impact

Concussion and the potential threat of associated chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) have attracted unprecedented media attention. The public debate regarding the link between CTE and head injuries in sport is emotive as well as distracting. This media focus has been positive in that it has raised public awareness of concussion but the same media focus could have negative consequences by

  • Reducing sports participation and undermining the health benefits of exercise;

  • Forcing sports to adopt hastily developed and evidence deficient risk management strategies.

Dr Patricios and Dr Kemp have called for leadership from Rugby in this area and have also called for collision sports to unite and provide a unified, unemotive and consistent message regarding possible neurocognitive effects associated with concussion in sport.

The International Rugby Board (IRB) supports this call for collision sport unity and outlines below an overview of our risk management strategy related to concussion.

What is the risk?

The risk of long-term neurodegenerative illness following head injury is unknown.1 This uncertainty is the fuel that fires the public debate. The lack of concrete evidence allows both sides to publically claim a position that is neither supported nor refuted by science.

What we do know is that a single moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) can lead not only to acute neurological deficits but also to long-term neurodegenerative issues, in 40–50% of patients.2 We also know that repetitive head injuries in boxers and recently within other sports have been linked with long-term neurological sequelae.3 ,4

What we do not know is

Is there a link between concussion (mild TBI) …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.