Picture: SA RUGBY
Picture: SA RUGBY

Rugby has yellow and red cards. White cards were tried out before. Now prepare yourself for the blue card.

The latest initiative by SA Rugby is aimed at targeting and managing the scourge of concussion in rugby.

The blue card‚ which signals players who need to be removed from the field due to a concussion or suspected concussion‚ will be rolled out across SA in the next few weeks at all levels of the game.

The only exception will be elite adult tournaments or matches in which World Rugby has approved the use of head injury assessments (HIA).

The blue card‚ which serves as a visual aid on correct onfield concussion management‚ has been implemented successfully at the SA Rugby youth weeks over the past two years. This has prompted it to be extended to school and club level‚ the SA Rugby junior provincial championships and the Currie Cup first division.

This decision was made in consultation with medical experts‚ key rugby safety stakeholders and SA Rugby’s rugby department.

The blue-card concussion system works on the “recognise and remove” principle and enforces the immediate removal of the player from the match. It is also included in the BokSmart 6 rugby safety programme courses which will be rolled out from July and will reach all rugby coaches and referees around the country over a two-year period.

All concussions and suspected concussions will be recorded via a standardised referees’ blue-card report‚ while an online reporting tool has also been developed‚ which is linked to SA Rugby’s Footprint system

Individuals, whose e-mail details are recorded through this online system, will be sent relevant information and advice about managing concussion.

The end-users will also gain access to a database of medical doctors versed in concussion management for rugby union‚ through collaboration with Sports Concussion SA.

Jon Patricios‚ a professor in sports medicine who also serves as a specialist consultant for both World Rugby and SA Rugby on concussion matters‚ lauded the roll-out of the blue card: “Implementation of the blue-card system represents another significant milestone in SA Rugby’s injury intervention programme‚ BokSmart.

“One of the principles of concussion management is that concussed players should be cleared to return to the sport by a medical doctor. Importantly‚ the blue card is not only a visible sign to players and spectators of potential concussion‚ it also creates access to a network of doctors experienced in concussion management.”

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said: “The players are the most important component of the game‚ and their health‚ welfare and longevity is our top priority.

“Players at these levels often return home after sustaining a concussion or suspected concussion and the correct steps are not always followed by those closest to them to ensure that they return to play safely.

“By having a portal through which they can find medical doctors in their regions who are experienced in concussion management for rugby union and also receive guidelines on how to return to the field safely‚ will contribute to longer and more rewarding careers.”