Australian rugby to trial blue card in concussion management efforts

Adam Ashley-Cooper of Australia is taken off field with a concussion during the Bledisloe Cup in 2016. Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) will trial a 'Blue Card' system in the ACT and Newcastle competitions in the coming weeks in a bid to step up its efforts in concussion management.

The referee will now have the authority to issue a blue card to a player showing signs of concussion during a match. After receiving a blue card, the player will have to leave the field of play for the remainder of the match and cannot return to rugby until they have completed a series of steps designed to ensure they make a full recovery before taking the field again.

Under the ARU's concussion guidelines, mandatory stand down periods apply for any player diagnosed with concussion. For adults, the mandatory stand down period from training and playing is 12 days, while for children under 18 the stand down period is 19 days.

ARU medical and development staff held seminars with both the ACT and Newcastle & Hunter Rugby Union in recent weeks to educate referees, coaches and club medical staff on the system, which will be trialed in opening round matches in their junior and senior competitions.

The Blue Card trial will kick off with this Saturday's two scheduled first round matches in the ACT's John I Dent Cup.

"The Blue Card trial is just one of the ARU's many initiatives to improve player welfare and safety in our game, and follows over two years of extensive research on concussion and concussion management from World Rugby down through each nation," said ARU Chief Medical Officer, Warren McDonald.

"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."

"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."

If a player is issued a blue card by a referee during a match, they must exit the game and can't return to play in that match. The player must then follow a series of steps before returning to training and play:

  • Physical rest for 24 hours or for as long as advised by a medical practitioner

  • Complete the minimum stand down period under the ARU concussion guidelines (19 days for adults, 12 days for children under 18)

  • Undertake a Graduated Return to Play program

  • Obtain medical clearance to return to training/play