Referees will be given the power to brandish blue cards over the coming weeks as the Australian Rugby Union trials a new system aimed at better managing the effects of concussion in the sport.
Competitions in the ACT and Newcastle will serve as guinea pigs for the initiative, starting this weekend, when on-field officials will be able to send a player who is showing signs of concussion to the sidelines.
The system is targeted at the senior and junior club levels of the game, which rarely benefit from the same medical facilities or education around such injuries as professional clubs.
A player who has received a blue card will not be allowed back onto the pitch for the remainder of the match and cannot return to rugby until they have passed a number of tests to prove their recovery.
The ARU outlined four steps an affected player must go through before being given the green light to return: resting for at least 24 hours; seeing out a mandatory stand down period (19 days for adults, 12 days for children under 18); undertaking a graduated return to play program; and obtaining medical clearance to return to training or playing.
The ARU’s chief medical officer, Warren McDonald said the trial is the product of two years of extensive research on the issue and has had input from the game’s governing body, World Rugby.
“Our concussion guidelines are there to ensure that everyone in our game is educated on how to manage concussion and ultimately the aim is to gather feedback from the upcoming trials and work towards rolling out the blue card system nationally across our grassroots competitions at both junior and senior level,” McDonald said.
“The blue card is a visual cue that a player has a suspected concussion and they will be removed from the field of play and won’t be coming back that day. It’s about recognising and removing a player that is suffering the effects of a head knock.”
There are no plans to introduce the system at the elite level.