Hosted over three days and five sessions, the symposium brought together more than 1,000 members of the rugby family and independent experts to discuss the latest science, knowledge, research and technology and inform evidence-based strategies to reduce the risk of injury.
The third symposium featured a dedicated player education workshop aimed at changing player behaviour through training as well as a research session where eminent doctors and scientists presented the audience with outcomes from their important academic work.
Across the six sessions, the main headlines included:
- World Rugby will examine the latest eye-tracking technology as a potential objective tool to identify and manage concussion, partnering with EyeGuide and NeuroFlex®
- World Rugby is partnering with New Zealand Rugby, the University of Otago and Prevent Biometrics to undertake the largest-ever study into the nature of head impacts in community rugby using instrumented mouthguards with the objective of advancing the sport’s injury-reduction strategies
- Launch of the Head Contact Process explainer video with Wayne Barnes, initially available in three languages
- World Rugby will assist the RFU and University of Birmingham to identify elite men’s and women’s competition saliva biomarker study opportunities
- Ongoing work with the University of Bath on a replacement study examining the impact of replacement players on injury rates, with approximately 75 per cent of more than 4,000 tackles analysed across elite competitions
- The importance of tackle technique and rugby preparation in the prevention of head impact events in the women’s game, particularly when players begin playing in their later teens
- Latest update on the Law 4 padded headgear trial operational to allow approved manufacturers to assess non-Regulation 12 compliant padded headgear for potential head injury reduction
- An update on the welfare-driven law trials currently being undertaken in the game, including the French community tackle height trial, which is delivering encouraging initial results.
- Newly appointed Chief Executive Alan Gilpin opened the symposium by outlining World Rugby’s commitment to fostering a safer and more accessible game for all
- More than 1.8 million players, coaches, medics, match officials and members of the public have completed World Rugby face-to-face and online education programmes
Attended by elite players from around the world, there were immersion sessions on the evolution and operation of the Head Injury Assessment (HIA) process and genesis and implementation of the Head Contact Process (HCP) which is currently being rolled out across the game, furthering rugby’s commitment to reducing injuries by changing player behaviour.
The international federation also re-emphasised its commitment to research-guided advances in player welfare standards through its annual call for applications to fund research projects. Interested applicants can submit their project on World Rugby’s online portal until 30 April, 2021. Only proposals falling under World Rugby’s player welfare priority areas will be considered for the current funding cycle.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The World Rugby Player Welfare and Laws Symposium has not just provided the ability to share information and consider the latest developments in sports science and technology, but it has delivered concrete commitments to examine the latest eye tracking and instrumented mouthguard technology to identify, manage and prevent head injury in the sport."
World Rugby Chief Medical Officer Dr Éanna Falvey added: “We are united in our unwavering commitment to drive forward programmes that will advance the welfare of players at all levels of the game, particularly in the priority area of concussion prevention, education and management. The breadth of attendance across the three days reflects that commitment and I would like to thank everyone involved for their important contributions.”
World Rugby Head of Technical Services Mark Harrington said: “This was our largest symposium to date and our first to be held in a virtual setting. It provided a great platform to outline the considerable volume of work that we undertake to support and educate the game in a number of important areas including welfare. Our training and education programmes are attracting record completions with more qualified trainers, educators and medics than ever before, while we are advanced in our development of the Tackle Ready programme, which we will be launching later this year.”
Further information on World Rugby’s player welfare approach can be found at playerwelfare.worldrugby.org.