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New concussion initiative is a welcome development in player safety

By Niall Crozier

I was at the Aviva Stadium on Monday for the launch of the IRFU's guidelines on concussion.

Much of what was said was encouraging, though it would be foolish to run away with the idea that the risk can ever be fully eradicated from a physical contact sport in which aggressive, high-speed collisions are part and parcel of the game.

However confirmation of the fact that, henceforth, coaches at every level of the game will be educated as to the signs and symptoms of concussion and will have a clearly defined procedure to be followed in the event of any such injury are important and welcome developments.

Dr Rod McLaughlin, the IRFU's Head of Medical Services, is the man fronting this drive. His lengthy CV includes Medical Officer at the Bejing and London Olympics, Director of the Medicine Assocation, Irish Institute of Sport and Olympic Medical Officer.

His IRFU remit is "responsibility for the development of world-class care to player in the professional game together with overseeing of an international-standard medical infrastructure for the amateur game in clubs and schools throughout Ireland."

The parents and siblings of every schools' rugby player will say amen to that. The parents, siblings and spouses of adult players will take comfort from the news, too.

For let us remember that it is not the Brian O'Driscolls, Paul O'Connells, Rory Bests or Tommy Bowes of this world who are most at risk. It is the schoolboy and the social 4th XV-level player the who turns out on Saturday afternoon for the craic.

One of the reasons for my attendance at Monday's Dublin launch of A Guide to Concussion In Rugby Union was that I promised the parents of Ben Robinson to stand up for people like them, a coroner having found that their 14-year-old son died as a result of so-called second impact syndrome after remaining on the pitch when he was concussed while playing for Carrickfergus Grammar School against Dalriada in a Medallion Shield match in January 2011.

Let us all hope this new initiative will lead to improved player safety.

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