One of the main rugby stories to emerge over last weekend came from the Aviva Premiership. George North appeared to be knocked out following a clash in the air with opposite number Adam Thompstone. Here's the incident:
Despite the fact North - a player with a long history of head injury - appeared to be knocked out cold, he returned to the field a few minutes after his mandatory Head Injury Assessment pitchside.
This, naturally, caused uproar among fans and commentators of a sport whose approach to player welfare is under increased fire.
So much so, that Northampton released a statement in the aftermath of the game:
George was attended to by the Northampton Saints medical team rapidly after landing on his side following a challenge in the air by Adam Thompstone. George was communicating immediately with attending medics and complaining of neck pain.
Significant neck injury was excluded on the field but on review of video footage pitch side, the team followed World Rugby protocols and used a Head Injury Assessment given the potential mechanism for head injury. George was fully assessed by the doctor and passed fit to return to play.
Northampton Saints places the highest importance on player care and their safety is the club’s primary concern.
This was not the end of the statements coming from Saints.
Yesterday, they issued another statement to the effect that North had been stood down from selection. They also said that they did not have the same footage pitchside as viewers did:
As at every Aviva Premiership match, the Saints’ medical team has access to video footage to be used to assist the pitchside assessment of injuries. It is important to note this video footage is not always the full range of replay angles available to the TV viewing audience at home.
The medical team can only base their decisions on the evidence available to them at the time of assessment. World Rugby protocol dictated, given the evidence available to the medical team, the use of a Head Injury Assessment.
George was fully assessed by the doctor away from the pitch using the established protocols and processes, and passed fit to return to play. As with all such injuries, if evidence suggesting a loss of consciousness had been available to the medical team at the time of assessment, George would not have been allowed to return to the field of play...
...Additionally Northampton Saints is seeking to work with all parties to improve the availability of all footage that may assist team medics with injury management.
We can officially upgrade the status of this story to 'saga', making the step up from 'controversy'.
According to the Daily Mail, BT Sport are furious with Saints' claim that they failed to provide the medical staff with adequate video footage to examine North's injury.
Here's a pertinent excerpt from the Mail's story:
It would have been absolutely extraordinary and highly unusual if the designated concussion spotter had not been able to access exactly the same footage the television audience had.
Even, in the highly unlikely event the feed wasn't adequate and the spotter could not see the footage on their ipad, what about the countless times the incident was replayed on the big screen?
Are they seriously saying not one member of Northampton's medical or coaching team saw those replays? It is simply not plausible.
This is absolute nonsense from Northampton. The equivalent of the "dog ate my homework". They're using diversionary tactics to distract from the fact they messed up very badly and are now back-peddling.
This is very interesting. Even before you throw the fact of BT's £152 million sponsorship deal with the Premiership deal into the mix.
A saga indeed.