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Evaluation of World Rugby's concussion management process: results from Rugby World Cup 2015


Objective To evaluate World Rugby's concussion management process during Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2015.

Design A prospective, whole population study.

Population 639 international rugby players representing 20 countries.

Method The concussion management process consisted of 3 time-based, multifaceted stages: an initial on-pitch and/or pitch-side assessment of the injury, a follow-up assessment within 3 hours and an assessment at 36–48 hours. The initial on-pitch assessment targeted obvious signs of concussion, which, if identified, lead to a ‘permanent removal from play’ decision and a diagnosis of concussion. If the on-pitch diagnosis was unclear, a 10-min off-pitch assessment was undertaken for signs and symptoms of concussion leading to a ‘suspected concussion with permanent removal from play’ or a ‘no indication of concussion with return to play’ decision. Evaluations at 3 and 36–48 hours postmatch lead to diagnoses of ‘confirmed concussion’ or ‘no concussion’. Medical staff's decision-making was supported during each stage by real-time video review of events. Players diagnosed with confirmed concussion followed a 5-stage graduated-return-to-play protocol before being allowed to return to training and/or competition.

Results Players were evaluated for concussion on 49 occasions, of which 24 resulted in diagnoses of concussion. Fourteen players showing on-pitch signs of concussion were permanently removed from play: 4 of the 5 players removed from play following off-pitch medical room evaluation were later diagnosed with a confirmed concussion. Five players not exhibiting in-match signs or symptoms of concussion were later diagnosed with concussion. The overall incidence of concussion during RWC 2015 was 12.5 concussions/1000 player-match-hours.

Conclusions This study supports the implementation of a multimodal, multitime-based concussion evaluation process to ensure that immediate and late developing concussions are captured.

  • Concussion
  • Contact sports
  • Epidemiology
  • Rugby
  • Risk factor

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