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World Rugby 'Disappointed' With Northampton's Handling Of George North's Head Injury

World Rugby 'Disappointed' With Northampton's Handling Of George North's Head Injury
By Gavin Cooney

World Rugby have today released a statement following their review of Northampton's handling of George North's head injury in December's Premiership game between Northampton and Leicester Tigers. It was a collaborative review, with World Rugby working with the RFU to, in their words " to further understand what lessons could be learned and what appropriate measures could be implemented to reduce the risk of a repeat incident in any competition".

The statement confirmed that Northampton failed to comply with World Rugby's head-injury management protocols. Here is the sentence relevant to that point:

Despite the failing by the club to correctly apply World Rugby's head-injury management protocols, World Rugby has recognised that the RFU and PRL acted swiftly and appropriately to implement measures with Northampton Saints and other clubs to reduce the probability of future non-compliance.

Despite the fact that Northampton did not comply with the rules, they have not incurred any sanctions from the governing body. Here are the specific learnings:

  • The robust head injury protocols defined within the Tournament Player Welfare Standards were not fully adhered to at the match in question. Prioritisation by the medical staff given to evaluating a potential spinal injury to North, was advanced as the principal reason for the non-compliance of head injury protocols.
  • The non-application of the protocols resulted in North not being immediately and permanently removed from the field of play as he should have been, without requiring a Head Injury Assessment (HIA).

World Rugby go on to state that they are "disappointed" with Northampton's handling of the incident:

While it is impossible to completely remove the risk of error, World Rugby remains disappointed that there was a failure in this case to identify and manage the injury appropriately, in particular considering North's medical history.

North appeared to be knocked out cold following a clash in the air against Leicester on December 3rd, only to return to play a few minutes later. The incident is below:


After the game, Northampton released a statement explaining the incident, citing a lack of video footage as one of the reasons as to why North was permitted to return to play:

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.

This was strongly rejected by BT Sport, as a source told the Daily Mail:

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.

Journalist Tom English  - author of the brilliant rugby book No Borders - questioned World Rugby's lack of sanctions:

See Also: French Media Report Munster Will Sign Two Irish Top 14 Players In The Summer

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