Questions have been raised following France’s loss to Ireland in Paris, after doubt was cast over the home side’s insistence that two players were in need of Head Injury Assessments.
Both flyhalf Matthieu Jalibut and scrumhalf Antoine Dupont both seemed to suffer injuries to their lower limbs, but when they left the field the French medical team said that both needed HIAs.
On the 30th minute teenage debutant Jalibut left the field apparently with a knee injury, yet he was assessed as a HIA.
On the 76th minute Dupont left, again with what looked like a leg injury, and again a HIA was ordered. Irish captain Jonathan Sexton queried referee Nigel Owens, who himself questioned the match day doctor, who clarified that Dupont was indeed going to have a HIA.
Owens pointed out that he could only make his decision based off the recommendation of the match day doctor.
Under the HIA protocols, medical staff can assess the player for up to ten minutes. Theoretically, it would allow a player a longer period of time to be treated by doctors before potentially being brought back onto the pitch.
Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll called out France on Twitter, writing: “That’s an injury replacement. No HIA.”
Jamie Cudmore’s concussion foundation – The Rugby Safety Network – also branded France’s apparent use of the protocol as a tactic. “When a protocol put in place to protect player welfare is used as a tactic like it blatantly was by French today action must be taken or the entire HIA and concussion protocol is taken from. Abuse of process cannot go unsanctioned.”
The HIA incident themselves could now be reviewed. A post game video review process where an independent video reviewer can consider the evidence surrounding a potential head injury incident could now take place.
The HIA protocol is being constantly monitored.
Speaking in September of 2017, World Rugby Chief Medical Officer Dr Martin Raftery said: “We are constantly reviewing our processes and learning from the evidence to ensure player welfare is at the forefront of the game.
“We acknowledge that there is no perfect system for diagnosing a concussion and that is why we continue to research methods and improve processes in this area.
“We recognise that in a small number of cases, we know the HIA process has not been implemented as directed or intended.”