The rugby world had a rude awakening this week when Wales’s George North played through a head injury unnoticed until after the match.
He and a teammate bumped heads, and he fell briefly unconscious (less of a red flag, more of a giant neon sign that reads “PROBABLE CONCUSION HERE!”). But he immediately awoke and did not leave the field. It was his second worrying blow, having been taken off the field earlier in the match after being kicked in the head. But he returned after eight minutes, seemingly having been cleared for play.
World Rugby said in a statement that North should have left the field after the incident and that their rules were violated. But also they absolved the Welsh Rugby Union of any wrongdoing since the team’s medical staff and the independent doctor at the match didn’t see the hit. It appears that while the incident was clear on television footage, those on the sidelines did not have a good line of sight and did not see it.
The response to the unsettling event has been startling in its intensity and has turned the head injury spotlight firmly on rugby. Hopefully, it will prompt more vigilance and better protocols so that rugby will be a safer sport for heads in the future.
*Scientists have no conclusive evidence as to whether or how the reduction of g-forces during impacts reduces the number or degree of concussions and head injuries. GelDefender products provide supplemental padding as well as cooling and comfort benefits when used with helmets and caps. Participants in activities in which head impacts can occur should always use tested and approved helmets for protection. However, no helmet or supplemental padding can protect the user from all serious head or neck injuries that can result from impacts.