22 Dec 2016

Rugby 'experimenting on players brains'

9:22 am on 22 December 2016

Rugby authorities are "experimenting on players' brains" by failing to address concussion, a former World Rugby medical advisor says.

Rugby authorities are "experimenting on players' brains" by failing to address concussion, a former World Rugby medical advisor says.

A review panel has given English club Northampton no punishment despite finding that George North should not have played on after injuring his head this month.

It was the fifth blow to the head the Wales winger has suffered in two years.

Wales winger George North.

Wales winger George North. Photo: Photosport

"They have had enough examples of how it has gone wrong to say 'enough is enough'," said Dr Barry O'Driscoll.

"If you have to take a player off to have a concussion assessment you must suspect concussion and he must stay off. But they are experimenting in that part of the game that is the most brutal."

Dr Barry O'Driscoll

Dr Barry O'Driscoll Photo: Supplied

Former Scotland international John Beattie added that he was worried for the future of young players, and that they "have to be protected" from brain damage.

"We can't have a game where the end product is a brain-damaged super-human who's made a bit of money," the Beattie told Radio 5 live.

"I know blokes my age and younger who have brain damage. I worry about George North, I think we need to be much more careful with players."

The report states that, although North, 24, appeared to lie motionless after the incident against Leicester Tigers earlier this month, he told medics he had stayed still because he was "concerned about his neck".

North also "continued to deny any loss of consciousness with immediate recall of events", with the "only symptom recorded being neck pain".

But Beattie said that "the last person you should listen to is the player" as they are "trapped in a money-earning spiral".

Peter McCabe, chief executive of brain injury association Headway, said that "serious questions have to be asked" of the existing concussion protocols.

Currently, medical teams have 13 minutes to decide whether a player can return to the field, with any player with suspected concussion being removed.

"This incident sends out a confusing message around the issue of concussion, particularly for children who follow the example of famous players and favourite clubs," he said.

"It is essential that a safety-first approach is taken."

Meanwhile, sports injury lawyer Ian Christian said the decision was "hugely disappointing", and a missed opportunity for rugby authorities to "make a statement" on the importance of the issue.

"This isn't the first time George North has played on when all those watching thought he should be off the pitch and it proves that players need protecting from themselves," he said.

"This was an opportunity for the panel to make a statement about concussion and the importance of a safety first approach and it has been wasted."