Rugby

Rugby's Concussion Rules Failed Again During the Lions-All Blacks Decider

Rugby's Concussion Rules Failed Again During the Lions-All Blacks Decider

Sporting officials love to pay lip service to lofty notions like 'player welfare' but when the biggest moments in sport arrive, the rules around concussion are routinely placed to one side. Think of the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks where Patriots receiver Julian Edelman took head shot after head shot and played on without being examined.

As thrilling as it was, the Lions-All Blacks match this morning was as about as brutal as rugby gets, and yet again, rugby's HIA rules were found badly wanting.

Many fans were incredulous to see Alun-Wyn Jones back on the field being knocked into next August after a yellow-card bicep hit from Jerome Kaino.

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Whatever about the merits of letting Jones back on the pitch after seeming to lose consciousness, it appears that the match officials bottled the HIA protocol. On a Twitter thread, sports lawyer Tim O'Connor explained that the officials seemed to forget that the HIA protocol forbids potentially-concussed players from returning to the pitch after a 10-minute window closes. Jones spent roughly 20 minutes being examined.

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Jones went off circa 9.48am Irish time.

He returned around 10.09am

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Some journalists in Eden Park even questioned if Jones even went off the pitch to complete his HIA.

Amazingly, Warren Gatland insisted that Jones passed his HIA after the match.

“He passed a HIA, he wasn’t knocked out.”

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It sure seemed different on television. While it was breathtaking to see the likes of Jones, Kaino and Kieran Read shake off thunderous cranium blows, the final Lions test match again highlights the failings of HIA protocol. Yet again, the rules put in place to protect players were thrown out the window while the game was being decided.

The players will continue to sacrifice their own well-being to win games. Surely it's the job of the referees to protect them.

A final footnote of this tour is how Liam Williams risked concussion to stop a try in the 82nd minute.

The 2017 Lions tour has served up an enthralling six weeks of rugby but it has highlighted the serious flaws in head injury assessment. As Scotty Stevenson said on Sky Sports in New Zealand, it seems like only a catastrophic injury will change head injury protocol.

Donny Mahoney

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