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Premiership Rugby adds independent doctors

An independent matchday doctor will be added to the medical team for top-flight matches
An independent matchday doctor will be added to the medical team for top-flight matches

Premiership Rugby is to introduce a new player-welfare initiative for the 2019/20 season with Independent Matchday Doctors in place at all Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Premiership Rugby Cup, and European home matches.

This initiative is funded by the clubs and has the support of the key stakeholders from Premiership Rugby, the RFU, the RPA and World Rugby.

What is the role of the Matchday Doctor?

The Matchday Doctor is to be responsible for decisions regarding replacement for blood and head injuries. They oversee implementation of the Head Injury Assessment and work in collaboration with team doctors and medical staff to support head injury decision-making during the match.

Why is Premiership Rugby bringing them in?

1 Player welfare is right at the top of the agenda and Premiership Rugby believes this is the next stage, building on from the introduction of Hawkeye – to help ensure the identification of head injuries on the pitch – and to support the Head Injury Assessment process.

2 Independent Matchday Doctors have been operating on the international stage for a long time and, therefore, this will bring the domestic game in England closer in line with best practice and the international standard where we have already seen great success.

3 It will take some pressure off team doctors. The introduction of Independent Matchday Doctors means there will be another set of eyes and ears for them to collaborate with when it comes to their decision-making around head injuries.

4 It gives the capacity to undertake more simultaneous Head Injury Assessments (HIA) on players. At the moment there is a 10-minute minimum and maximum amount of time for the HIA to take place. If multiple HIAs occur at the same time, it is a running clock and we will now have the ability with more hands on deck to handle this.

How will it work?

For the 2019/20 season in all Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Premiership Rugby Cup and European home matches there will be: a Team Doctor, an Immediate Care Doctor (appointed by the home team) who is there to support and undertake emergency care and a Matchday Pitchside Video Reviewer (MPVR) who sits near the pitch reviewing the match through the Hawkeye system, and to aid decision-making.

In addition, there will be an Independent Matchday Doctor who will sit with the Matchday Pitchside Video Reviewer and Hawkeye technician close to pitchside and be able to keep their eyes on the match.

Together as a team, they will look after head injury management, giving world-class care to players.

The decision as to whether a Head Injury Assessment is required and subsequently if a player can return to play sits with the Independent Matchday Doctor. However, it will always be a collaborative and supportive process. All decisions will be made in discussion with the team doctors who know the players well and will be able to share these experiences and insights with the Matchday Doctor. They will always review the video together.

In terms of who carries out the HIA, there are a couple of options. In the pre-match meeting, the team doctor will decide if they carry out the HIA with the Matchday Doctor observing, or if they delegate to the Independent Matchday Doctor. In either case, in terms of the decision about whether the player returns to play, this will always be a discussion and a collaboration between the Team Doctor and Matchday Doctor.

“This new initiative continues the evolution of our player welfare strategy, following on from the introduction of the Head Injury Assessment and our use of the Hawkeye system to help better identify injuries during matches,” said Matt Cross, Premiership Rugby’s research and development manager.

“Our clubs are at the forefront of player welfare initiatives and with us, will continue to drive world-class standards in the care of our players.”