Chief Medical Officer Backs Scottish Rugby Campaign
Scottish Rugby has received widespread support for the groundbreaking ‘Are you ready to play rugby?’ initiative which aims to make the game safer and more enjoyable for all. Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Harry Burns, added his backing for the extensive consultation process undertaken by Scottish Rugby. The consultation included discussions and presentations with rugby clubs, schools, academics, health practitioners, Scottish Government and key stakeholders.John BeattieColin ThomsonEndorsing the initiative, Burns said: “This is an important initiative from Scottish Rugby. The Scottish Government is already working closely with Scottish Rugby and Edinburgh University on a study looking at injuries in schools’ rugby, and the Government hopes to extend this in the coming season to a larger number of schools. Sport by its very nature inherently carries risk, however any policy development, such as ‘Are you ready to play rugby?’ which will raise awareness of safer practices is a positive step and should be welcomed.”Following the consultation, policy recommendations were released today (Wednesday 20 May) by Scottish Rugby to ensure that everyone involved is appropriately prepared to play, coach, teach and referee, and follows a consistent, safe and enjoyable approach on and off the field.Scottish Rugby highlighted five key areas for change: age banding and law variations, minimum standards for coaching and refereeing, injury management and reporting of injuries, injury prevention, risk management and insurance and, based on the feedback received, a set of amendments to Scottish Rugby policy shall be implemented in time for the start of the 2009/2010 season.Chief executive of Scottish Rugby, Gordon McKie, said: “The ‘Are you ready to play rugby?’ campaign is an important and pioneering initiative which will promote best practice. These policy changes are the first step in our initiative to make the game safer for all.”Player safety is of paramount importance and we have worked extensively with the Scottish rugby community, academics and medical practitioners such as the SCOT group [Scottish Committee of Orthopaedic Trauma Surgeons] along with key stakeholders to ensure that our sport continues to evolve with player safety as the number one consideration. “With the number of people playing the game at both adult and youth level continuing to grow year on year we will continue to make the game as safe and enjoyable as possible for all of its participants.Bernard Lapasset, IRB [International Rugby Board] Chairman, said: Everybody involved in organising and playing rugby worldwide has a duty of care in relation to the welfare of players. The IRB and its member unions are continually driving the promotion of programmes to support individual coaches, players, referees, administrators and unions in preparing to play the game in a safe and enjoyable environment. “On behalf of the IRB I would like to commend Scottish Rugby for its ‘Are you ready to play Rugby?’ initiative and its promotion of best possible practice models for physical conditioning, technique, injury prevention and injury management.”Former internationalist and West of Scotland RFC coach, John Beattie, added: “We have to have a game that combines physicality with a sense that it is trying to be as safe as possible, particularly in the teenage years. “I have played rugby since I was seven years old and, like all former and current players, we all love the game because of what it is. But mums and dads have to know that the governing body is doing all it can to make the game as safe as possible. These changes are an excellent way of addressing that.”Key to the rugby policy amendment is the restrictions created to stop physically immature players playing against and with physically mature players, which is a major factor in increasing risk of serious injury.From the 2009/2010 season on, front-row players will not be eligible to play under-18 school or club rugby until they are 16. If exceptional cases can be demonstrated in other positions the player must satisfy a two stage assessment of his physical maturity, skill level and experience to ensure they are of a comparable standard to that of the game/competition that they wish to play.The first stage requires the completion of an assessment form- counter signed by the player, coach/teacher and the player’s parents – which must satisfy the new Scottish Rugby Policy. If the player satisfies the policy criteria he will be referred to a regional Scottish Rugby assessment centre for an appraisal of his physical maturity by a qualified medical professional. Only then, on full approval, can he compete at under-18 level. An application for consent to Scottish Rugby must also be completed for under-18 players who wish to play senior rugby with additional criteria to be satisfied for under-18 players who wish to play in adult front rows.Scottish Rugby has also set the online ‘rugby ready’ course as a minimum criterion for all referees, coaches and teachers in Scotland for the start of season 2009/10. Since its launch in October 2007, IRB Rugby Ready has been accessed by over 129,000 separate users in 196 countries worldwide with registrations coming from every corner of the globe.The online self-assessment programme will teach, inform and refresh coach / teacher knowledge of the key aspects of match preparation, correct technique, and injury prevention and management, while also recognising the need to develop coaches and coaching at all levels of the game. Scottish Rugby will monitor schools and club for their ‘rugby ready’ status.The IRB course was developed on the back of a similar scheme run in New Zealand which demonstrated an 89% decrease in permanently disabling (paralysis) spinal injuries from scrums. Over the same period, there has also seen a 56% decrease in overall spinal injuries.A brief outline of the policies are detailed below, for a comprehensive feedback and recommendation document please visit the dedicated ‘Are you ready to play rugby?’ section of www.scottishrugby.org which will host information and updates on playing safely.FURTHER POLICY CHANGESInjury management: the reporting of injuriesCurrently there are no minimum standards in place for pitch-side medical care however basic minimum standards of pitch-side care will be established and communicated to all clubs and schools prior to the start of season 2009/10. Furthermore a rugby first-aid qualification will be developed with an associated workforce development programme will be put in place to allow all clubs and schools to attend a local course prior to the start of season 2010/11. Injury preventionPre-season training has been shown to reduce the incidence of injury at peak times during the first two months of the season. Scottish Rugby will develop information for all coaches and players on basic physical preparation and skill development needed prior to playing rugby. In addition, all players from the age of 15 are to be encouraged to complete IRB online rugby ready course (compulsory for all under-16s in under-18 rugby, and under-18s in senior rugby). A BBC Radio Scotland programme featuring Colin Thomson can be found by going to http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00hww01 Consultation Process At the beginning of February a consultation paper was widely circulated to all clubs, schools and other stakeholders. A series of regional presentations were also organised to give people the opportunity to discuss the proposals with Scottish Rugby staff. Stakeholders were encouraged to give feedback both at the presentations and also in writing. Almost 300 people attended the presentations and around 50 written responses were received from across the country. Further details on the consultation presentations and groups are listed below. Seven internal presentations took place and all governance structures have been informed and consultedScottish rugby would like to thank all the rugby community who gave up their time to contribute to this important piece of work. Your feedback has been invaluable in assisting us with developing the following policy changes which will further reduce the risk of serious injury in our game. Scottish Rugby would also like to thank the SCOT group of Orthopaedic Consultants who have contributed significantly to this process. External Groups Consulted• All full and associate member rugby clubs and schools• 32 Local Authorities• sportscotland• Scottish Government• Referee Societies• Association for PE Scotland• Association of Directors of Education Scotland• School Sport Federation• SCOT Group• Scottish Rugby board and council• SWRU Board and member clubs Regional PresentationsHighland and Islands -Highland Council HQGrampian -Gordonians, Seafield ClubTayside and Fife – Bells Sports Centre, Perth Central and West Lothian – Castle Suite, Forthbank, Stadium, StirlingEdinburgh and Mid Lothian – 1925, Murrayfield Stadium Scottish Borders – The Greenyards, MelroseEast Lothian – Ross High RFCDumfries and Galloway – Stewartry RFCArgyll and Bute – Oban Lorne RFC Glasgow North and South School Presentations (at Murrayfield and the High School of Glasgow) Information on the online IRB Rugby Ready resource can be found at: www.irbrugbyready.com/irbrr/en/intro8.jspScottish Rugby works closely with the Murrayfield Centenary Fund set up in Scottish Rugby’s centenary season 1972-73, focuses on providing assistance to injured Scottish rugby players and is financially and administratively independent. Since its inception, it has assisted a number of players with short or longer term injuries, with the help and support they needed.