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Representatives of SA Rugby’s BokSmart rugby safety programme and the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund (CBPJF) will join forces with a number of international rugby bodies at a Rugby Nations Workshop in Cape Town on Thursday and Friday, where post-injury player welfare and rugby safety matters will be placed under the spotlight.

The closed two-day workshop, hosted by the Players’ Fund, will feature representatives from South Africa, England, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Japan, and will include members of the respective Rugby Unions, Rugby Player’s Funds and Rugby Safety programmes.

The jam-packed programme will cover five core topics namely acute spinal cord injury challenges; effecting player welfare and rugby safety changes at ground zero; the “near miss” conundrum; how science and research can be used to effect change; and concussion and head trauma.The objectives of the workshop include (amongst others):
· The creation of an effective model that all Players’ Funds can strive towards to create long-term fiscal and operational sustainability, and sustainable independence for their members;
· Gaining a better understanding of the Third World challenges experienced in South Africa in dealing with spinal cord injuries, and to share similar experiences, and solutions;
· To move towards a shared operational definition of a “near-miss” incident and a unified operational strategy on whether a player can safely return to playing rugby or not following such an injury or after having undergone cervical spinal surgery;
· Share different scientific models used to drive evidence-driven change in rugby safety policies, protocols and regulations and to allow the Players’ Funds or Rugby Unions to engage more on these models to tailor them to suit their situation;
· Provide potential solutions to improve the implementation of and compliance to safety-related interventions on the ground and to share the challenges experienced in collecting accurate serious injury data;
· Gain insight into the way concussion is managed at the different unions and to empower them with alternative strategies to manage concussion effectively and efficiently on the ground.

“Rugby safety and the prevention of catastrophic injuries is one of the main objectives for rugby federations world-wide, said SA Rugby’s senior manager for Rugby Safety, Dr Wayne Viljoen.

“However, when things go wrong on the field, a focused and effective support strategy is hugely valuable to those catastrophically injured players. So we are delighted to join forces with the Players’ Fund and embark on this information-sharing practice with some of the other top rugby nations in the world.

“The structure of this workshop is unique in the sense that there are sections dedicated to vigorous discussions after each topical session, which will allow information sharing, learning and debate. This will then be captured into a closed report, meaning that everyone will walk away with something tangible, which will benefit us all.

“The fact that this workshop will involve a collaborative effort between a few top rugby nations is also significant, as it will assist in creating a pragmatic and more aligned approach to improving the effectiveness of rugby safety interventions, the treatment of concussion and catastrophic injuries, and equally important, player welfare post-injury.”

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