Are World Rugby protocols slacking after IRFU Cian Healy concussion cover-up?

Ireland Rugby loosehead prop Cian Healy has been named in the starting line-up to face England at Twickenham on Saturday.

In the aftermath of Ireland’s thrilling 28-8 bonus-point victory over Scotland at Aviva Stadium last Saturday, which won the Irish their first Six Nations Championship since 2015, Healy was bludgeoned with an Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) cover-up.

Little attention was given to an incident involving Healy that took place in the first-half of the game.

Ireland v England in the 2011 RBS 6 Nations

Healy took two blows to the head within a short timeframe in the first-half which led to the Leinster man receiving treatment on the field by a medical staff member.

But after a period of treatment, Healy got back to his feet and stumbled back into play – clutching onto his fellow countrymen at the back of a ruck in his own 22.

Yet the Leinster man continued to play until he was replaced in the 50th minute by Jack McGrath, leading to an overhaul of criticism of Irish set-up.

With head injury assessments (HIA’s) at the forefront of debate in recent times, improvements are being made and strides are being taken into learning more about traumatic head injuries, but time and time again incidents like this continue to happen and are evidently forgotten about.

A statement from the IRFU asserted that: “There are the usual bumps and bruises that occur following a Test match but the full squad of 36 players are available for selection this week.

“Healy suffered a stinger-like injury to the shoulder/trapezius area. He experienced some discomfort on the field and received the appropriate treatment. Cian will train fully this week.”

Cian Healy 27/8/2011

Criticism surfaced as the medical staff who were treating Healy appeared to let the 30-year-old return to play. He didn’t undergo a HIA and returned to play in the second-half.

How Healy was deemed fit and able to carry on playing is beyond reasoning, it is clear to see he is struggling to walk.

Head injury issues are increasing in rugby, with it being a high impact sport, nothing can stop these injuries occurring due to the nature of the game, but changes can be made and laws can be written, in particular the HIA protocols need addressing.

Ask yourselves – how many times have you seen players allowed back on to play this season after suffering a serious knock to the head? – it happens on too many occasions and unfortunately incidents like this are always covered up by the aftermath of content from a game.

Current World Rugby regulations state: “Cases where players have the potential for concussion, but without clear on-pitch symptoms or signs, undergo an off-field assessment consisting of a medical room clinical evaluation by an attending doctor supported by the multi-modal screening tool, and video review.”

This protocol was clearly ignored, as critics believe that even if he did not suffer a concussion, under World Rugby’s Head Injury Assessment Protocols he should have undergone an off-the-field check.

The importance of player safety and their wellbeing is paramount.

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