Concussion protocol for rugby and ultimate

Anna MacDonald, Contributing Writer

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High-contact sports like rugby make the danger of concussions all too common. Photo by Anthony Garnier.

Anyone who hangs out around the Maher Athletic Center long enough will see athletes walking around with large bags of ice taped to a leg or strips of brightly colored Kinesio tape in pink and blue running up their calves.

While the athletic center provides excellent medical care for its NCAA athletes, there are other student-athletes on campus who feel that they have been excluded from proper medical attention. Division III athletes have full access to a concussion specialist doctor and an entire team of trainers and medical staff. Club athletes, on the other hand, are left to their own devices.

Fast-paced, high-risk sports like rugby and ultimate have just as much potential for injury as other sports, such as basketball or soccer. If the school is going to protect all of its student-athletes, it will have to make some changes.

One of the most concerning injuries for student-athletes is a concussion. It takes several to be serious enough to prevent an athlete from continuing to play his sport or to cause him to drop out of school, but if an athlete has had one concussion, he is more susceptible to getting another.

The protocol for the University of Dallas rugby team begins before the season commences when every student takes a baseline concussion test.

Senior captain Luke Goveas, who has experienced three concussions over his four-year UD career, explained the process.

“Their score is recorded and used to measure how the player is functioning after he has suffered a concussion,” Goveas said.

Goveas has been relatively pleased with the school’s procedure of handling club sports.

“Catherine Duplant has been very helpful in making sure that the rugby club hasn’t had to deal with the administrative and financial issues that have cropped up in the past,” Goveas said.

Senior Charles Turner reiterated Goveas’ sentiment that the school has been helpful.

“If you play a contact sport, you know you are risking getting a concussion,” Turner said.

The biggest precaution the team can take to prevent concussions is through teaching proper forms of tackling to new players.

“Almost all of the concussions I have seen were, in some way, due to poor tackling form,” Turner said.

Turner also mentioned that the team, previously, had a rough history with the school administration in dealing with concussions.

However, Turner believes things have changed for the better.

“If that is a common perception still, let me put it to rest now,” Turner said. “Both the team and the administration, especially Doré [Madere] and Catherine, have made big strides the last couple years and really put in work to get on the same page, and the same team … I have nothing but good stuff to say about how Rec Sports treats us now.”

While the rugby team is positive about its concussion protocol and its relationship with the administration, the ultimate club has raised some concerns. Ultimate Frisbee is not necessarily a contact sport like rugby, yet it still offers sufficient opportunity to suffer a concussion.

Senior John Stein reflected upon the current situation.

“We normally have one or two [concussions] a year,” Stein said.

However, the way the ultimate team deals with concussions could cause some concern for potential athletes.

“We do not have any official concussion protocol,” Stein said. “Generally speaking, we operate on a case-by-case basis when a player suffers a concussion. Because we’re not permitted to use the athletic trainers here at UD, if a player gets a concussion while playing ultimate, they have the option of seeing another doctor or just waiting it out.”

Stein continued, noting that the university could perhaps do more to accommodate for concussions in what many consider to be the most popular club sport here at UD.

“I do think it is within the capabilities of the university to provide more opportunities for medical treatment and competitive, high-level play for club teams — both of which are things that are often sacrificed due to red tape and lack of funds,” Stein said.

Junior Maddie Oi agreed with the other members of the ultimate team saying that it would be better if the school took the team more seriously and offered the medical attention received by the NCAA sports. While the team does its best to take care of its players, there are certainly some downfalls in not having access to a trainer.

“We do not have official trainers at our games or tournaments to make those decisive calls about whether or not player should keep playing due to a possible concussion,” Oi said.

The administration has made significant strides in maintaining their relationship with the rugby team, proving that the initiative should exist on both sides in order to make positive changes where necessary. Keeping this example in mind, the school and other club sports should work together to create a more established and conscientious concussions protocol to ensure the safety of our athletes, NCAA sanctioned or not.

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