World Rugby to extend concussion stand-down period by five days

A major change to the regulations on concussion management will be announced next week, with World Rugby ready to extend the compulsory stand-down period for affected players to 12 days with effect from 1 July.

At present a top-level player who fails a head injury assessment (HIA) is permitted to take the field again as early as the following weekend if they follow a graduated sequence of return-to-play protocols. The new policy will extend that stand-down period by five days.

That will bring World Rugby into line with bodies such as the Rugby Football League and the AFL, who earlier this year increased their return-to-play periods to 11 days and 12 days respectively. Player welfare groups have campaigned for a change in rugby union for some time, with several high-profile former players having revealed they are now suffering from the effects of early onset dementia.

The amendment should bring an end to situations such as the one involving Exeter’s Luke Cowan-Dickie this time last year. The England hooker was knocked out in the Premiership final against Harlequins but was permitted to play in a warm-up fixture for the British & Irish Lions the following weekend.

World Rugby subsequently introduced another safeguarding initiative that required players such as Cowan-Dickie to be assessed by an approved independent concussion consultant before being allowed to return within 10 days.

Reports suggest the latest shift will contain some provision for players who fail an HIA but exhibit no on-pitch symptoms and have no history of concussions. They could return in seven days provided they pass all the required tests. The rationale is that a blanket 12-day limit might tempt some players to hide symptoms they may be experiencing in order to be available for their team’s next game.