PR Week – Rugby concussion concerns pose comms headache

The worlds of rugby and healthcare face renewed comms challenges over growing concerns about the issue of concussion and head injuries in the sport, following a BBC documentary.

The came to the fore during the Six Nations tournament earlier this year, with the second of three such injuries suffered by Wales' George North in particular putting a focus on whether measures for managing players who had suffered head injuries were sufficient - especially in the amateur game, which does not enjoy the same on-hand medical support.

Yesterday, a BBC Panorama documentary showed that the number of reported concussion cases was on the rise, and featured World Rugby's chief medical officer saying that rules around tackling in the game might have to change in order to protect players.

With the sport enjoying its moment in the limelight after the Rugby World Cup began on Friday, PRWeek asked practitioners how the issue could unfold.

David Alexander, former sports writer and managing director of sports agency Calacus PR, said: "While the plight of George North has been a great shame for the player, it has served to raise the issue of head injuries in a way that few other incidents have done.

"There is a big opportunity for World Rugby and the rugby authorities in general to address concussion or other head injuries with the seriousness that they deserve – and with so many players retiring because of it, including England internationals, it is only right that they do so sooner rather than later."

He said that Calacus had worked with the International Boxing Association ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games, as it addressed concerns around concussions ahead of women's boxing's debut at the Olympics. He added that the association's review and education work resulted in "a huge decrease in concussions and related injuries across its competitions".

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