Thunder launch concussion wristband system

With concussion and the management of head injuries a major focus within rugby, Newcastle Thunder’s academy are aiming to be at the forefront of championing player welfare.

Using the established Graduated Return to Play protocols as a basis, Thunder’s Academy Manager Michael Heap has developed a traffic light wristband system in order to help communicate player’s recovery progress to coaches, parents and teachers.

Applying a red, amber or green coloured band depending on the player’s position within the return to play protocols, it is hoped that what is believed to be the first system of its kind, can help manage the wellbeing of those recovering from head injuries by offering up a simple, yet effective visual reminder.

Heap explains: “With concussion and it’s treatment being an area of focus and the significance that it could have in a person’s life later, as well as in the short term with things like secondary impact syndrome, we’re putting a big focus on welfare and making sure kids are properly treated following a concussion.  Everyone involved in sport has a responsibility to make sure that athletes aren’t returned to play too quickly or put at risk by people who may not be aware of their injury.

“Under the system, we have attached either a red, amber or green wristband to each of the stages of the Graduated Return to Play protocols. From being diagnosed with concussion our players will wear a red wristband.  This will stay with them during their period of complete rest.

“An amber wristband is worn by those who are going through stages 2-5 which progresses from light aerobic exercise to full contact training provided the athlete is symptom free.  A green wristband will be worn upon the return to play and serves as a visual reminder that the player has recently returned from a head injury.”

Using the traffic light colours as a method of communicating a player’s recovery, the wristbands worn by the individuals carry both the date of the injury and the anticipated date of completing that segment of the return to play protocol.

They are accompanied by a card containing contact details of club medical staff and additional information regarding the return to play protocols to provide further support to those involved.

And while only recently rolled out, Heap and the club staff are pleased by the response from those they are working with on this new system.

He added: “We’ve started it with our Under 16s academy, with the parents of the players all on board and the feedback has been good.  We have one player who has completed the process and he found it very beneficial. With a concussion, it’s not like a broken arm say where you can see the injury with a cast so we are hoping that the wrist band provides an indicator to both players and adults and reminds them of the importance of adhering fully to the GRTP protocol..

“This gives them something to back it up and hopefully makes people more aware of the importance of the return to play protocol.”

Should the trial prove successful, the Academy Manager hopes it is something that can be rolled out wider than just within the club and help manage head injuries within the junior game.

“We’re working with major stakeholders within North East rugby league, as well as our colleagues in rugby union, and the plan is potentially to roll it out to all the clubs when the rugby league community game restarts.