BBC Panorama programme, presented by former Scotland international John Beattie, looks at the rise of head injuries in rugby

With head injuries and concussions on the rise, World Rugby’s chief medical officer, Martin Raftery, says rules need to change to reduce concussions.

In a BBC Panorama programme, to be broadcast tonight (Sep 21), Raftery says tackling needs to be looked into to make the sport safer, with reported concussions up over 50 per cent in England in the last five years.

According to the BBC, Raftery will be reviewing video footage of 900 concussions to identify how brain injuries occur, with potential rule changes coming as a result of his analysis.

“Player welfare is about identifying what the risk is and then bringing about change,” he said. “There’s no doubt that the biggest area that we know where concussion is going to occur is in the tackle, so that will help us to look at the tackle and see what we can do to make it safer.

“My job is to identify risk and then look for solutions and then present those solutions to the law-makers to make the changes that will bring about protection of the athlete.”

Several players at the current Rugby World Cup have already suffered head injuries on the field of play, with Argentina‘s Guido Petti suffering a concussion when he collided with Dan Carter in the process of scoring against the All Blacks on Sunday.

Guido Petti collides with Dan Carter's shin as he scores against the All Blacks

Guido Petti collides with Dan Carter’s shin as he scores against the All Blacks

American brain scientist Prof Ann McKee has been analysing the brains of former athletes who played contact sport, linking head knocks to a type of dementia called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

“There is an absolute link between head trauma, multiple minor head traumas and a neurodegeneration, and the one we’re seeing most commonly is something called CTE,” she told the BBC.

“The lesson to world sport is I think we should stop arguing about whether or not playing sports with a lot of hits to the head is a risk for this disorder. It is.”

A recent report concluded that of the 91 former American Football players who donated their brains for study, 87 showed signs of CTE.

Panorama broadcasts tonight (Sep 21) on BBC One at 20.30.