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ARU should lead way on concussion, says Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie.

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie. Photo: Getty Images

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie says the ARU should be "leading the way in what's right and wrong" on the controversial issue of concussion.

McKenzie welcomed the ARU's appointment of national concussion specialist Ryan Kohler who, among his other duties, is acting as the Wallabies' new dedicated match-day concussion doctor for the three-Test series against France.

McKenzie, who said he was "wonderfully naive" to the risks associated with rugby and other contact sports during his 51-Test career, said the ARU had reacted responsibly to a worldwide issue.

"Once you determine something is important, you have to make it important," McKenzie said.

"Those [International Rugby Board] parameters have been developed over a period of time and they haven't been universally accepted, but they will.

"There are all sorts of issues in play, like welfare and liability. Welfare should be the priority – you have to make sure people who play your sport, play it because they enjoy it ... but we're not in the business of making life difficult for people later on."

The appointment of Kohler coincided with the ARU increasing its in-game "head bin" protocol from five to 10 minutes, to meet IRB recommendations. It brings Australia into line with widely-accepted best practice on concussion.

It comes as the sport, internationally, lurches from disaster to disaster in the public eye.

In the past month, rugby has been rocked by damaging footage of Toulouse player Florian Fritz being urged back out to play after being knocked out; the forced retirement of two-time Super Rugby-winning captain Craig Clarke and, most recently, Shontayne Hape's shocking first-person account of pushing on through a career littered with serious head injuries.

The ARU has largely managed the issue well, apart from the universally criticised incident involving Test breakaway George Smith in the third Test against the British and Irish Lions last year.

Smith was knocked out within the first few minutes of the series decider and had to be helped off the field, but returned to play after somehow passing the head bin tests.

The incident prompted the IRB to revise its protocols and rule that a player could not return to the field of play under any circumstances if they lost consciousness.

More recently, the IRB commissioned research showing its pitch-side concussion assessment tool, known as PCSA or "head bin", had led to a drop in the number of players diagnosed with concussion after being allowed to play on.

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that before the head bin trial, 56 per cent of players assessed by doctors but left on the field were later found to have been concussed. That dropped to 13 per cent with the introduction of the head bin.

The IRB has since modified the protocol, beefing up the memory and balance tests and doubling the time available to medics to make a decision. 

McKenzie was a tighthead prop for Australia in the 1990s, when rugby was still an amateur sport.

"[Concussion] had no profile at all, it was a very amateur environment, we played for fun and travel," he said.

"There wasn't a lot of sport science in those days. Syndesmosis, shoulder reconstructions – they didn't exist, you just got out there and kept playing. My generation carry a bit more battle damage but we were wonderfully naive.

"Things move on and now there's a lot more games at a higher level. [The ARU and Wallabies] are in the business of inspiration, and part of inspiration is leading the way in what's right and wrong."

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00Olym
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00Olym
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45Olym
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45Olym
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00KPS
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00Olym
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
France 0 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tonga 0 0 0 0 0 0
Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Romania 0 0 0 0 0 0
Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
South Africa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all

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