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Rugby youths hospitalised for concussion

NewsBy Lynne Kelleher
Johnny Sexton walks off the field concussed in the Aviva
Johnny Sexton walks off the field concussed in the Aviva

FIVE Irish children have been hospitalised for severe cases of concussion directly related to playing rugby, figures obtained by the Sunday World reveal.

The HSE said that five child patients under the age of 18, but over the age of 10, were hospitalised for “severe” concussion directly related to rugby in 2013.

This figure doesn’t include the many milder cases of concussion seen in emergency rooms which aren’t recorded at a national level.

“There were five discharges with primary diagnosis of concussion with an external code of rugby for under-18s,” said the HSE in a statement.

“Typically only severe cases of concussion would be admitted while other cases would most likely be treated in an Emergency Department with no patient admission required.”

The figures come as the spotlight on handling concussion in sport intensifies.

Jonathan Sexton’s mandatory three month enforced lay-off after four concussions in 2014 highlighted the problem here, He sparked fresh worry when he sustained a cut to his head on his return to the Six Nations against France but he has been cleared to return to play against England in tomorrow’s clash.

The author of a new study on the alarming number of Irish schoolboy players getting concussed, says players in almost all U.S. States – whether they are underage or professional – must be cleared to return to play after a concussion by a qualified medical professional, which is not the case in Ireland.

“They have been dealing with this problem in the U.S. for a lot longer than we have. There are more medical resources there,” says physiotherapist Sinéad Delahunty.

“With the Senior and Junior Cup schools rugby it’s coming to the latter stages and there is probably medical personnel there, but if you went out to any other game in the community there probably wouldn’t be a physiotherapist or a doctor.”

The IRFU said rugby players diagnosed with concussion have to follow ‘return to play’ protocols which is 23 days out of the game at under-20 to under-six, and 21 days out of the game for adult players. The national rugby body has gone on a major concussion safety drive with education talks around the country over the past two seasons.

The recent study on underage Irish rugby players, carried out in University College Dublin, stated that one quarter of Irish schoolboy players returned to play after concussions without medical advice.

It also shows that one in five schoolboy concussions were admitted to hospital while another 40 per cent required treatment in an Emergency Department.