We bust some misconceptions about brain injuries in rugby

The myths around brain injuries in rugby

From scrum caps to symptoms, Rugby World addresses misconceptions about brain injuries in rugby.

“Headgear staves off concussion”

Scrum caps have a demonstrative effect on reducing the risk of lacerations, cauliflower ears and other soft-tissue injuries. However, there is no evidence that any headgear can protect against sub-concussive and concussive blows.

World Rugby hope that trials with headguards that use in-built technology to measure impacts can inform science going forward.

“It’s only concussion if you’re knocked out”

A player does not have to get ‘knocked out’ or lose consciousness in order for them to have a concussion. Have a look at the list of signs and symptoms to look out for below.

myths around brain injuries

“If you’re fine after a few days, return to play”

In the elite game there is a menu of checks for any player with a confirmed concussion, and they should only take on return-to-play protocols when symptom-free – and must be symptom-free throughout.

Protocols feature a medically supervised six-stage sequence, starting with total rest followed by light exercise with gradually increasing intensity. This culminates with a return to contact training. Each stage is a minimum of 24 hours but can be longer.

The player must remain at the pre-concussion baseline level, clear of signs and symptoms during activities outlined in each phase and remain so after, before being cleared to move to the next stage.

After that, a player may only return to play upon completing a comprehensive neurocognitive test.

In the Gallagher Premiership, a panel of Independent Concussion Consultants can be asked to rule on whether a player can return to play after the six steps within a ten-day window, and will give views on anyone deemed ‘higher risk’ (concussed within last three months, two or more concussions in last 12 months, or five or more in their career).


“Kids follow the same protocols”

There are no Head Injury Assessments (HIA) in youth and junior rugby – which is why we promote the message of ‘If in doubt, sit them out’.

“Recovery is the same for men and women” 

More research into the women’s game is required. But the current evidence suggests that women are almost twice as likely to suffer a concussion and potential effects could be worse for them.

There’s also need for more study on the effects that any hormonal changes through a female player’s menstrual cycle can have on this.

This article originally appeared in the February 2022 edition of Rugby World. 

Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.

Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.