In my last article I adressed the dangers of concussion and how it’s need to be acted upon now. So what are the best ways to combat concussion?
If you would like to view my previous article on concussion, you can do here;
Tackling is an issue
Arguably, tackling is one of the biggest issue when it comes to concussion. The higher people tackle, the greater chance of the upper body or head being inflicted with great force. The way forward is to encourage lower tackling at all levels, not by the proposed removing tackling from school level rugby. Tackling round the legs and waist has always been the way forward, the lower you hit them the greater chance of stopping them. It’s confusing to me why so many professionals in the modern game tackle high or shoulder charge. Within the last year Owen Farrell has been infamous for tackling around the shoulder, sometimes being penalised and other times not. To sort this referees at all levels should be extremely tough on tackles above the waist to reduce the chance of concussion.
Concussion can’t be ‘walked off’
Back before concussion was considered serious, many players would have take a large knock to the head and played on. Sadly this still happens in the modern game. In my previous article I mentioned George North being the ‘poster boy’ for concussion, he can provide a perfect example of this. Back in 2015, North collied with teammate Richard Hibbard. He was knocked out in the incident and was left to play on. The Welsh Rugby Union faced fierce black-lash from fans and world rugby, they later accepted they had made a fundamental mistake.
It has been relatively common to see professionals knocked out and them continue to play the game, but it also happens at amateur level. Back in 2011 an Irish school boy died of concussion. Ben Robinson took a large blow and was left to play on. Shortly after he was hit again and never regained consciousness.
Rugby officials noticing and dealing with concussion mid-game has improved massively since Ben Robinsons death. It just needs be more uptight. If a player takes a knock to the head, remove them from the game. No concussion assessment, if a player is experiencing even one symptom they need to be removed with immediate affect.
The possible solution
Lower tackling and officials being on the ball needs to be improved but its not the best solution to defeating concussion. Weight grouping instead of age could be the best solution. The idea revolves around players of the same weight playing with and against each other, instead of age grouping. This does not only reduce the chances of people being smashed by bigger people but also develops skills better. Forwards learn to be pass and play like backs, whilst backs learn to tackle like forwards. The All Blacks have been promoting weight grouping for decades now and look at the success it has brought them! Damian Mckenzie is relatively small in stature for a professional rugby player but that does not stop him tackling players of eighteen stone and upwards.
I would be a strong advocate for weight categories in rugby and hopefully World Rugby will start to notice the positive impact it could have. Even former professionals like ex Wales Captain, Sam Warburton have noticed its benefits. Warburton said “If you’ve got a game where Michalak is set up to tackle Nadolo, you’ve got a health problem.”. The former flanker was arguably one of the toughest tacklers in rugby. If Sam if saying world rugby has a problem, then things must be acted on.
Concussion can’t just simply go away
If we take into account all the measures suggested, it will definitely reduce the chances of concussion. Although people need to remember, it won’t just go away. It’s small risk of playing rugby. Without removing contact from the game, concussion will always be prevalent. If you remove one of the main principles of the game, you ruin rugby for good.
Another important question is why has concussion increased in recent years? Find out next week.
Written by Sam Powell