Innovative Rugby World Cup 2019 drives best-ever player welfare outcomes

Tournament organisers present evidence of a marked reduction in concussion and other injuries following introduction of new tackle framework.

TOKYO, 30 Oct - World Rugby has announced positive player welfare results from Rugby World Cup 2019 with a 35 per cent reduction in concussion incidence compared to current elite adult competitions and a reduction in match injuries compared to 2015.

Japan 2019 is the first Rugby World Cup to feature the High Tackle Sanction Framework, which is designed to reduce the risk of concussion by changing player behaviour from high-risk upright to lower-risk bent-at-the-waist tackles, with positive behaviour change clearly evident during the showcase event.

Highlights include:

  • Injury replacements per match have reduced from 2.08 per match in 2015 to 1.13 in 2019
  • Confirmed concussion rates at Japan 2019 have reduced by 35 per cent when compared to 2018-19 elite competition levels and 12 per cent when compared with Rugby World Cup 2015
  • Compared with 22 elite competitions in 2018-19, concussion rates at Rugby World Cup 2019 have reduced by 35 per cent
  • No delayed concussions have been reported, most likely due to the strong application of Head Injury Assessment process
  • Concussion rates at RWC 2019 are 10.5 concussions per 1,000 player hours compared with 12.5 concussions per 1,000 player hours in RWC 2015 and current elite adult reported rates of 17 concussion per 1,000 player hours
  • There are fewer concussions occurring in the tackle as players adjust to the lower acceptable height in the tackle (one tackle concussion every 3.7 matches versus one tackle concussion every 2.7 matches in 2015)
  • While the tackle risk has reduced, the player at most risk remains the tackler

Additionally, supported by the most comprehensive player welfare standards programme ever operated at a rugby event, Rugby World Cup 2019 is on track to deliver best-ever injury statistics with injury replacements per match reducing from 2.08 per match in 2015 to 1.13 in 2019.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Our commitment to player welfare is unwavering and a core pillar of our strategies is to reduce injuries. It is highly encouraging that Rugby World Cup 2019 has demonstrated extremely positive outcomes in this priority area.”

World Rugby Chief Medical Officer Dr Martin Raftery, featured in this video clip, said: “Our role is to ensure that we can provide the best-possible standard of care to our players, driven by an evidence-based approach.

“Rugby World Cup 2019 is the pinnacle of the men’s test game and a major platform to showcase best-practice in our sport. The medical standards implemented at this tournament are certainly bearing fruit thanks to the buy-in from the teams and medical staff.

“The High Tackle Sanction Framework was introduced this year following compelling research that illustrates that the tackle is responsible for 76 per cent of all concussions, the tackler sustains 72 per cent of all concussions in the tackle and head injury is four times greater risk with high tackles.

“At this tournament, and in the tests since May, we have been looking to protect players by changing culture and getting the tackler lower. These very positive outcomes suggest that the teams have embraced the challenge and that risk has lowered at this Rugby World Cup, which is very encouraging.

“While concussion rates are reducing owing to greater awareness, management and prevention strategies, we must and will continue to adopt an evidence-based approach to injury-prevention across all areas of the game as per the recommendations of this year’s Marcoussis conference.”

World Rugby has also relaunched its concussion education app available via the App Store and Google Play store, delivering a comprehensive education and management tool for all levels of the game.

The World Rugby Executive Committee and Council also congratulated Dr Raftery for his stellar work since 2011 in driving forward rugby’s player welfare strategies, particularly education, management and prevention of concussion, for which rugby is recognised as a leading player.