The Blue Card – which signals players who need to be removed from the field due to a concussion or suspected concussion – will be rolled out across South Africa in the next few weeks at all levels of the game, except elite adult tournaments or matches where World Rugby have approved the use of HIA (Head Injury Assessments).
The Blue Card, which serves as a visual aid on correct on-field concussion management, has been implemented successfully at the SA Rugby Youth Weeks over the last two years. This has prompted it to be extended to school and club level, the SA Rugby Junior Provincial Championships and the Currie Cup First Division. This decision was made in consultation with medical experts, key rugby safety stakeholders and SA Rugby’s Rugby Department.
The Blue Card Concussion System works on the ‘Recognise and Remove’ principle and enforces the immediate removal of the player from the match. It is also included in the BokSmart 6 rugby safety programme courses, which commences its rollout in July 2019, and will reach all rugby coaches and referees around the country over a two year period.
All concussions and suspected concussions will be recorded via a standardised referees Blue Card report, while an online reporting tool has also been developed, which is linked to SA Rugby’s Footprint system (www.sarugby.online/bluecard).
Individuals whose email details are recorded through this online system will be sent relevant information and advice pertaining to the management of concussion. The end users will also gain access to a database of medical doctors sufficiently versed in concussion management for rugby union, through collaboration with Sports Concussion SA.
“We believe the Blue Card is an effective way of continuing to raise awareness about concussion and the risks associated with it, and by progressively rolling it out at all non-HIA levels of rugby in South Africa, shows our continued commitment to player welfare and safety,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.
“The players are the most important component of the game, and their health, welfare and longevity is our top priority. Players at these levels often return home after sustaining a concussion or suspected concussion and the correct steps are not always followed by those closest to them to ensure that they return to play safely.
“By having a portal through which they can find medical doctors in their regions who are experienced in concussion management for rugby union and also receive guidelines on how to return to the field safely, we believe it will contribute to longer and more rewarding careers, while improving our education, awareness, reach and knowledge base on this very important subject.”
Jon Patricios, a professor in Sports Medicine who also serves as a specialist consultant for both World Rugby and SA Rugby on concussion matters, also lauded the roll-out of the Blue Card and said: “Implementation of the Blue Card system represents another significant milestone in SA Rugby’s injury intervention programme, BokSmart.
“One of the principles of concussion management is that concussed players should be cleared to return to sport by a medical doctor. Importantly, the Blue Card is not only a visible sign to players and spectators of potential concussion, it also creates access to a network of doctors experienced in concussion management.”