Player welfare advocates reacted angrily after concussion statement in a World Cup warm-up match programme was posted online

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has apologised for publishing “a poorly worded” concussion statement in the match programme for Ireland’s recent Rugby World Cup warm-up match against Italy.

The article, titled ‘Concussion updates – what you need to know’, included a section under the sub-heading, ‘Is concussion treatable?’ that read: “Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that amateur players are at risk of mental health or neurological disorders later in life after exposure to repetitive head impacts.”

Read more: Ireland Rugby World Cup squad

An earlier reference, meanwhile, claimed continuing to play with a brain injury “even for five minutes can delay full return to play by three days”, without mentioning the life-threatening risks of second impact syndrome.

The comments prompted anger when posted on social media.


Player welfare group Progressive Rugby described the article as, “hugely disappointing”.

Consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon and professor of sports medicine Bill Ribbans, a Progressive Rugby member, said in a statement: “Education on concussion, and separately chronic traumatic encephalopathy is key to retaining confidence in and growing the game of rugby union. 

“While we welcome the use of match day programmes to spread the message, it is hugely disappointing that the IRFU have presented information lacking accuracy and credibility. 

“While the community game, like the women’s game, lacks comprehensive research, at least one piece of credible research from New Zealand demonstrates cognitive impairment in amateur players who suffered concussions.”

The IRFU apologised in a statement to the Irish Independent. “The IRFU accepts that there was a piece in the match programme related to concussion that was poorly worded and we apologise for any offence taken,” it said.

“It was our intention to highlight the findings of the last International Conference on Concussion in Sport, held in Amsterdam in October 2022, which concluded that former male amateur athletes were not at increased risk compared with men from the general population.”

Concussion and brain injuries are major concerns in rugby at all levels. World Rugby have recommended a

Last September, former Ireland internationals David Corkery and Declan Fitzpatrick, as well as ex-Leinster and Connacht player Ben Marshall launched legal action against the IRFU, World Rugby and their former provinces in relation to concussion and brain injury.

At the time, the IRFU said in a statement: “People in rugby have been moved by the personal accounts of former players as reported in the media.

“Player welfare is of paramount importance to the IRFU and we are constantly reviewing safety protocols for all players.

“Our approach, based on scientific evidence, involves a commitment to ongoing education, monitoring and application of safety protocols across the game, including proactively managing elite player game time with a focus on injury prevention and oversight.”

The filing of legal documents in Ireland came a few months after 40 additional former players joined a rugby brain injury legal action against the RFU, WRU, and World Rugby.

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