IRFU medic warns of concussion risk
Any culture of pressurising players into toughing out potential concussions must be stamped out of rugby, according to the Irish Rugby Football Union's new medical services boss.
Dr Rod McLaughlin joined the IRFU in September and has helped launch a new concussion guide to cover Ireland's amateur game.
The IRFU says anyone younger than 20 should sit out 23 days before returning to action, while adults should rest for 21.
McLaughlin was keen to stress that the professional game has its own protocols but said even at elite levels, coaches, medics and administrators should be mindful not to let ambition come before player welfare.
McLaughlin said: "At the international and professional level, the doctors are there with the main expertise to make these decisions and that's what they should keep doing.
"We are educating across all the levels, that everyone within organisations, coaches, players, officials, understand that they should not be putting pressure in a way that they would suggest that someone should stay on the pitch when they shouldn't.
"It's about changing everyone's opinion and the culture that's out there, so that we don't have inappropriate pressure put on people to stay on the pitch."
McLoughlin said research will continue at pace into the specific damage caused by concussion.
Admitting it will be years before any definitive answers start to emerge, he said the most important course of action now is to drive home the message for players simply not to take any risks.
He said: "We've seen a link that we need to monitor: we haven't yet seen a cause and effect.
"I think it will be a number of years before we can tell that because the pro game is in its infancy.
"It's the appropriate management of present concussions that will be the effective thing in avoiding long-term damage if there is any.
"There's nothing's set in stone, it's an area that needs a lot more research.
"If someone gets two concussions within a season they should seek expert advice.
"And certainly if they receive three in a season, they probably should get expert, neurology advice."