JRFU aware of concussion in rugby
Jamaica Rugby Football Union (JRFU) chairman Jerry Benzwick has said that the association is working with World Rugby, the sport's governing body, to increase players' safety at all levels.
Benzwick said that rugby union has the best management of concussions of all sports around the world, so this leads to a lower rate of long-term injuries in the sport.
His comments relate to the discussion regarding head injuries, particularly Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE as it is also known, in contact sports. CTE is a disease that deteriorates the brain over time, because of repetitive trauma to the organ. However, this disease is not usually found in athletes until after their death, although early signs of its onset can be detected while persons are still alive.
"We understand it's a contact sport and people get hit in the head," Benzwick said. "We understand that there is always a possibility of that happening. Whichever sport you play, once you get hit in any way, however, we have what we call the best management of concussions. If a player even gets a gentle nudge that we suspect could be a head injury of any sort, he will not continue in that game. The officials have declared it from the jump that that player needs to be removed, assessed thoroughly, and if there's any slight indication of a concussion or even just a knock, they're gonna take the player off. You have to replace them and they're gonna do a full examination of that player before they're reinserted into the game."
Benzwick said that the best way to avoid injuries, including concussions in rugby union, is to practise the sport's proper techniques.
"To tell the truth, at the highest level, there are a lot fewer injuries," he said. "It's because the technique when you get to the level that we want to be at in rugby is very precise. The tackling is precise, the way the game is played is precise. If you deviate from that precision, you lose the game. The more professional we play, the less the chance of injury."
He added that although proper technique helps to keep you safe, there are protective gear such as scrum caps and protective vests which players should wear but many of them do not, because they feel weighed down by them, especially in the Sevens format of the game.
"It's not yet insisted that all players must wear them (scrum caps and vests) because they have not gotten to a point where it seems as if it's overwhelmingly important that every player wears it. On the world circuit, 90 per cent of players do not wear scrum caps," Benzwick said.
However, the JRFU has been actively introducing the sport in schools across the island through it's Get Into Rugby programme and Benzwick was asked what measures the body will take to protect players as young as five years old in the sport.
He responded: "That is something that we are discussion with World Rugby and it's probably gonna happen for schoolboy rugby. We do believe in player welfare. That's paramount. What we have encouraged our coaches and taught our coaches to do is to teach our students proper tackle techniques and proper protective techniques when you fall into a tackle."