The week of the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s is undoubtedly the biggest week in schools rugby.
Some 7000 players take to the pitches across the five days of action and we will be bringing you coverage of every single competition. With 7000 young boys and girls playing in the biggest competition of the season though, injuries are an inevitable consequence.
We therefore spoke to our friends at Return2Play, who are a big partner of the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s and who will be providing all medical services at the tournament.
Led by Dr Sam Barke, whom you may have seen in discussion BT Sport talking about injuries in rugby, their team will consist of six doctors, six physios, and 6 paramedics/ambulance staff across three medical centres. This should allow a focus on treating injuries rather than simply assessing and sending on for further care in hospital.
Anyone involved in rugby probably has an anecdote of a trip to hospital for assessment on an injury where you felt as though you did not really need to be there and Return2Play will be help avoid that by giving that further care on site. Indeed at the 2018 tournament there were 97 injuries that required further medical care, through having Reutrn2 Play doctors on site, 70 of those did not need to be sent to hospital.
Arguably the biggest issue in rugby right now, certainly the biggest issue from an injury point of view, is that of head injuries and concussion. It is a problem at the top end of the game right down to the very bottom of the game and the stats bear that out.
At the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s last year there were 241 injuries assessed by the medical team, 25% of those were concussion. That, in a nutshell, is the issue that is staring rugby right in the face.
Rosslyn Park is, as you would expect, taking the issue seriously – anyone with a head knock is required to be assessed by one of the tournament doctors, who are, of course, independent. That player cannot return to play unless a tournament doctor approves it. Ignoring these protocols risks that school being disqualified from the tournament.
It is not draconian though, for a start it is eminently sensible, Return2Play are introducing an electronic injury reporting system to give coaches immediate access to details of the medical care provided to their players, so if a concussion, or any other injury, is diagnosed by the medical team the injury reporting system will send coaches advice and confirm the return to sport protocols.
In a way though, at a tournament of Rosslyn Park’s size, certainly from a schools rugby point of view, injury and concussion diagnosis, treatment, and advice is easy. In that with the vast medical team on site, access and knowledge is on tap. On a muddy field on a cold and wet November’s afternoon in the middle of nowhere, that is not necessarily the case.
You do not have to go back very far to reach a time where people did not really know what concussion was, where a bang on the head was just a bang on the head, dust yourself down crack on. A badge of honour, even.
Thankfully, the times have changed, there is far greater awareness and understanding. However awareness of concussion and the consequences can still be improved, and it takes both education and a willingness to improve to keep that awareness rising and spreading to areas where perhaps the awareness is not as strong as others.
Even with that awareness there can still be issues for a school, communication in particular. There is a vast network that needs to all be on the same page when it comes to injury – the player, their parents, coaches, schools staff, and outside clubs. All need to be on the same path when it comes to recovery and return to play protocols. All whilst making sure that a doctor with appropriate knowledge is accessed, a requirement but not often a requirement that is easy to meet.
It is here where Return2Play have been doing some of their most important work, helping school’s manage all of these issues. The Return2Play software relieves the administrative burden for schools and allows them to document compliance. Their network of doctors are hugely experienced in treating concussion, in the last year alone they have undertaken over 1,500 return to sport assessments, they have the expertise to reassure players, coaches, staff and parents in order to guide the player safely back to sport.
At Rosslyn Park everyone will be lucky enough to have all of that expertise and help onsite, but obviously that cannot always be the case for every school fixture across the country, this is aimed to help.
Of course with any luck the week will pass injury free, in basking sunshine, and with some stunning rugby across all of the tournaments.
The rugby is always great, but injuries are a fact of rugby life, luckily though Rosslyn Park has guaranteed that each player will be in the best possible hands.
As for the weather, well, we dare to dream.