School rugby concussions: teachers need more training to support children with suspected head injuries

Thursday, 17 December 2020

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Despite completing RFU accredited courses, many PE teachers in the UK need more training to help children who are displaying signs of concussion as a result of playing rugby at school.

New research drawn from in-depth interviews with qualified sports teachers, responsible for teaching rugby in their schools, found there is a lack of understanding of the signs, symptoms and aftercare of suspected concussions.

Every concussion is significant

Dr Adam White, lecturer in Sport and Coaching Sciences at Oxford Brookes University and co-author of the report says: “Shockingly, there is currently no requirement for people to have any specialist training to deliver contact rugby to children. Yet every concussion is a significant injury and failure to recognise and remove players can be fatal. We don’t need another Ben Robinson, who died at the age of 14 after repeated blows to the head in school rugby, to know that.

“We need to do more to prevent and manage concussions in schools. It’s essential that teachers who are currently not prepared to deal with a potentially serious head injury are supported with additional training.”

RFU training is not adequate

Although the teachers interviewed held a minimum of a Level 2 Rugby Football Union (RFU) accredited coaching award, and completed the RFU’s concussion awareness training ‘Headcase’, researchers found this was not adequate to ensure they were fully prepared, should a serious injury arise.

As a result of the findings, the researchers recommend that the RFU’s ‘Headcase’ programme be delivered face-to-face by a qualified practitioner or form a central part of existing qualifications.

“Tackle training should be mandatory for all PE teachers and we would encourage every school to keep injury logs in order to better understand the frequency of injuries sustained during PE lessons,” says Dr White.

Lead author of the report, Rory Magrath, Associate Professor at the Solent University Faculty of Sport, Health and Social Science, adds: “This research further highlights ongoing safety concerns with tackling in rugby, and the need to ensure that PE teachers are adequately trained to recognise signs of concussion. It also shows the importance of ensuring proper training, as well as the need for rigorous records to ensure we better understand the frequency of injury in PE.”

Oxford Brookes University is part of the Sport Concussion Awareness and Training Project, an international initiative to give an in-depth understanding of concussion in sport and develop a freely available resource for teacher training.

The report, Part and parcel of the game? Physical education teachers, head trauma, and the Rugby Football Union’s Headcase programme has been published in the journal Managing Sport and Leisure.

The research paper was co-authored with Sophie Hill and Rory Magrath of Solent University.