With The Rugby Championship kicking off with matches featuring the Wallabies and All Blacks in Sydney, and the Springboks and Pumas in Cape Town, SANZAR and the IRB have utilised the Pitch Side Concussion Assessment (PSCA) protocols for the first time at test match level.
The new global initiative, designed to further enhance player welfare, has been successfully trialled at other levels of the game, but was in action on the international stage for the first time during The Rugby Championship.
Wallabies lock Sitaleki Timai and Springboks prop Jannie du Plessis were the two players that were taken from the field to allow the PSCA protocols to be applied.
Under the supervision of experienced and trained doctors, players can leave the field for five minutes while their well-being is assessed – notably looking for symptoms that could indicate concussion (such as headaches, nausea or dizziness).
SANZAR CEO Greg Peters said the new trials were adding layers of protection for the players.
“With individuals allowed to be assessed if they are believed to have concussion, The Rugby Championship can better safeguard its players,” he said.
“We are delighted that they have been successfully applied in the first instance with Sitaleki and Jannie both taken from the field as a precaution.”
Timani underwent the PSCA, the first SANZAR player to do so, and approved the new system after he accidentally collided with a fellow Wallaby.
“I just ran into a tackle and Anthony Faingaa hit me on my jaw,” Timani said.
“I got knocked out a bit.”
“They did a little concussion test on me. I passed it and they told me to come back in after the game. We did it again and I passed it again. I'm pretty clear to play this week. I reckon it's a good thing to bring that into the game because you can't really tell if you can carry on playing when you've got concussion.”
"It's better to bring you out and do a little test to determine you are right to play again or stay out."
Du Plessis was sent to the ‘concussion bin’ at the end of the first half hour of play, and while Pat Cilliers might have been pleased as he subsequently earned his first test cap, it was ironic that the Springboks prop was tested – a fully qualified doctor from the University of Free State himself.
Both players were cleared.
Pitch Side Concussion Assessment (PSCA Protocols):
• The recommendation to remove the player can be made by either the referee, the independent match day doctor or the player’s team doctor.
• Once that command is made, the referee will indicate that the player is leaving the field of play with a hand signal where he touches his head three times.
• Once the player has been removed from the field of play and temporarily replaced, the team and independent match doctors will proceed through an IRB pitch-side concussion assessment procedure incorporating standardised questions and observations.
• If the player fails any aspect of the assessment and has relevant symptoms he will not be able to return to the field of play and the substitution becomes permanent.