TOKYO, 16 Oct - Ahead of this weekend’s greatly anticipated Rugby World Cup 2019 quarter-finals, the World Rugby Medical Commission Conference is taking place in Fukuoka, Japan from 15-17 October with advances in injury prevention and player load management leading the agenda.

Experts from a range of medical, research and high-performance disciplines will share industry best practice and present evidence-based research findings on a range of topics including, reducing injury-risk, player load management, concussion prevention, the high tackle framework and the use of technology to assist injury prevention. It coincides with a Rugby World Cup where the most advanced player welfare standards ever for a rugby event are operational.

The conference, which is in its 11th year, is attended by unions and regions, competitions, International Rugby Players, coaches and leading medical and sports science experts. It is the principal global forum for player welfare in rugby and has been the catalyst for the implementation of programmes that are benefiting the game, including:

  • Global tournament player welfare standards and mandatory medical education and accreditation
  • Player load guidance complimenting Rugby World Cup 2019 player load passport programme
  • Law application guideline and supporting educational materials to assist everyone in the game with the on-field sanction decision-making process for high tackle and shoulder charges.
  • The Head Injury Assessment programme, which has revolutionised standards of concussion identification and removal in elite rugby
  • The Graduated Return to Play protocol that monitors players’ return from a concussion in medically-supervised steps.
  • Three levels of Immediate Pitch-Side Care in Rugby courses, standardising medical care
  • The Mindset Mental Wellbeing programme in partnership with International Rugby Players that delivers mandatory awareness and referral programmes to elite doctors
  • Global concussion awareness and education programmes that have changed behaviour and attitudes in the sport
  • Centralised injury-surveillance programmes across all elite competitions to enable an accurate global view of trends

With a focus on global training and education, speakers at the conference include research experts, leading sports medicine consultants, international players representatives and implementation experts.

A key development this year saw World Rugby issue a law application guideline and supporting educational materials to assist everyone in the game with the on-field sanction decision-making process for high tackle and shoulder charges.

Reflecting the international federation’s evidence-based approach to reducing the risk of concussion, the ‘decision-making framework for high tackles’ was developed in partnership with union and competition delegates attending the player welfare symposium in France in March and includes player, coach, match official and medic input.

The framework is a simple-step by step guide with the purpose of:

  • Improving the consistency in application of on-field sanctions by distinguishing between dangerous tackles that warrant a penalty, yellow card or red card
  • Supporting protection of the head of both players by consistently and frequently sanctioning the tackle behaviour that is known to be the highest risk

With research demonstrating that 76 per cent of concussions occur in the tackle, with 72 per cent of those to the tackler, and that head injury risk is 4.2 times greater when tacklers are upright, the framework is aimed at changing player behaviour in this priority area, via the promotion of safer technique and builds on the January 2017 edict on tougher sanctioning of high tackles.

As part of World Rugby’s constant quest to improve player welfare, there are also sessions on player load management and guidance for elite coaches and injury-prevention education. 

Visit World Rugby's player welfare website here >>

Read about the RWC 2019 player welfare standards here >>
Download the concussion education app here >>

World Rugby Chair Sir Bill Beaumont said: "World Rugby is fully committed to evidence-based injury-prevention programmes and ensuring that our sport leads the way in injury prevention, management and education.

“The World Rugby Medical Commission Conference provides an important forum to bring together experts from across the game and the wider sporting spectrum to deliver a joined up and multi-disciplinary approach to injury prevention and player welfare.

"Through collaboration with our Unions and independent medical experts, we are constantly conducting evidence-based research to increase our understanding, and there has been strong progress made in 2019 towards reducing risk, changing player behaviour and making our game a safer and simpler sport for all for generations to come.”

World Rugby Chief Medical Officer Dr Martin Raftery added: "Significant progress has been made this year with the introduction of the player load passport, premium player welfare tournament standards, and the decision-making framework for high tackles among other initiatives implemented for the long-term benefit of the game.

"We are constantly continuing to investigate evidence-based interventions to further reduce that injury risk, centring on changing player behaviour in the tackle, implementing proven injury-prevention programmes and encouraging all in the game to manage their player load."

The week kicked-off with the Rugby Science Network Conference and will also feature the Training and Education Conference, driving medical care best-practice alignment within the global education environment.