NZ Rugby and ACC team up to focus on player safety

The world leading RugbySmart programme is set to receive an additional $7m investment over the next four years to go towards injury prevention education.
Players, parents, volunteers and health providers will be receiving education as part of the expansion of the programme.

ACC Sports Injury Prevention Manager Isaac Carlson says, “Rugby and rugby players are changing. They’re fitter, faster and stronger than they were a decade ago so it’s important our injury prevention programmes keep up with the demands of the modern game.”

Around 150,000 people play rugby each winter weekend. There are approximately 3,000 games played every week over an average of 15 weeks – that’s 45,000 games of rugby every year.

Last year, ACC spent $67 million treating injured rugby players, with much of that coming as a result of contact injuries from tackles, rucks and mauls. This is the largest sports injury cost ahead of cycling and mountain biking injuries.

NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew says, “The safety of players is of paramount importance. The good news is that our injury programmes delivered through RugbySmart have significantly reduced the number of catastrophic injuries over the last decade. It’s why other countries have emulated what we do in this area, but we know we can do more to reduce other injuries.

RugbySmart currently targets coaches and referees. However, everyone connected to the game has a responsibility to look after player wellbeing. Through this expansion, we’ll be ensuring players, parents, health providers and others on the side-lines are better equipped to help avoid injuries in the first place and improve the way injuries are managed.”

NZR Medical Director Dr Ian Murphy says, “We know that the concussion message is getting through. With the expanded RugbySmart programme, we’ll be able to do much more to better detect and manage concussion injuries. This includes the expansion of the Blue Card scheme for referees from 2017 whereby they can send players from the field if it’s suspected they have a concussion injury.”

The expanded RugbySmart programme will cover six specific areas:

  • Coaches and referees - the current RugbySmart programme.  
  • Players - providing players with the skills and techniques to keep themselves and their team-mates safe.
  • Healthcare providers - tools and aids to allow health providers to manage concussion and other sport related injuries more effectively.
  • First aid in rugby – the delivery of a first aid programme that equips non-medical people with the skills to better manage injured athletes on the sideline.
  • Rugby-specific warm-up – an exercise programme incorporated into team warm-up drills aimed at reducing preventable injuries.

Respect and responsibility – tailored programme with an emphasis on respectful relationships, including consent, sexual assault and violence prevention (sexual and domestic).