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Concussion programme bearing fruit

The number of concussions reported in the Aviva Premiership rose last season - but medical experts believe this is due to more awareness of the head injuries.

A new publicity campaign and testing programme was brought in for last season and concussion was reported as the most common Premiership match injury.

There were 54 concussions reported in matches, and five in training - 6.7 per 1,000 player hours up from an average of 4.6 over the last decade, according to the new Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project Report.

Dr Simon Kemp, chief medical officer, of the Rugby Football Union, believes there are now more cases of mild concussion reported.

He told Press Association Sport: "My sense is that with players' increased awareness and better diagnosis, we are likely to see in all sports including rugby a rise in reported rates.

"Eight to 10 years ago a player may not have realised the significance of feeling sick or a headache after a clash of heads.

"Within professional rugby there has been a well-regulated programme seeing a re-setting of the bar as to what the lowest threshold is that constitutes a concussion."

Under the new programme, players can be temporarily replaced while an off-pitch assessment for concussion takes place. The report comes as the International Rugby Board announced it is setting up an independent concussion advisory group.

Kemp, meanwhile, hailed as good news the results that while injuries in matches overall have remained stable during the last decade, the number of recurrent injuries has dropped significantly.

He added: "That is testimony to the increasingly effective rehabilitation.

"If you have an injury now this is not a question of people patching you up but getting you back to pre-injury levels or even stronger. It's a really positive story."

The research also flags up a drop in the number of match injuries in England games last season, but Kemp said that a variation from one season to another is expected and that overall in English professional rugby there had been no rise or fall overall in injury rates since the surveillance project began in 2002.

The new IRB concussion advisory group will be made up of: Professor Caroline Finch (Federation University Australia), Professor Bob Cantu (Boston University), Dr Willie Stewart (Glasgow University) and Dr Jon Patricios (South Africa).

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