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Concussion Management in Rugby

Saturday’s match was an impressive display by Ireland against Wales to place them as number 1 ranked team entering into the World cup. The match was a poignant occasion for both captain Rory Best and Coach Joe Scmidt as it was their last time with the Irish team at the Aviva with both moving away from the National squad after this World Cup. Schmidt leaves a legacy of an impressive 80% home win percentage, having won 28 of the 34 games played at the National Stadium during his time. Schmidt described the primary emotion as relief, with less than two weeks to go until Ireland face Scotland in Yokohama, the team have sharpened their performance since their opening matches against England. Saturday’s match saw Wales open strongly in the first quarter, but Ireland soon found their footing and took charge in the latter stages.

Missing key players

Although entering the World Cup as the team ranked Number One (according to the World Rugby algorithm) the All Blacks are still favorites, having taken the title at the last two World Cups, expectations are high for the New Zealand side to make it a triple and take home the title. The label ‘favorite’ may be a poisoned chalice however, the All Blacks will be missing some of their key players due to injury. Damian McKenzie won’t feature at all for the All Blacks in the World Cup and Brodie Retallick will probably only be available for the quarter-finals. Luke Jacobson has also been struggling with concussion since 2018 and was unable to travel after a brief return to play against Argentina resulted in a recurrence of symptoms. Notably, concussion has been reported as three times more likely in rugby players in New Zealand than in American Football players (who are notoriously high risk due to contact-heavy play) (Marshall et al., 2002).

Concussion management

Concussion in rugby has gained widespread interest and media attention in recent years due to the potential dangers and long-term consequences.  Despite several international consensus statements there remains a great deal of uncertainty surrounding these injuries. Concussion management and rehabilitation is a key concern for our BSc Sports Therapy students who carefully study the pathophysiology and biomechanics of the mild-traumatic brain injury and the return to play management and adverse risks associated with concussion to ensure that they are equipped to provide expert care as part of the next generation of sports professionals charged with working in professional sport where injury rates are ever-increasing.

In addition to their injury concerns, performance preparation in the Southern Hemisphere may not be sufficient to prepare the side for the World Cup battle. In contrast to the intensity of World Cup competition, during Championship rugby in the Southern Hemisphere the All Blacks are dominant and a rarely aggressively challenged by the opposition. Following the weekends action, we eagerly await the Championship in Japan and anticipate impressive performances from both the ‘favorites’ and the ‘number one’ ranked teams.

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