France to crack down on poorly diagnosed concussion cases

Federation appalled after Toulouse centre Florian Fritz was sent back on to the pitch despite looking dazed after a knock to his head

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 10:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 3:14pm


The French Rugby Federation (FFR) will toughen its stance with Top 14 clubs for the upcoming season over the way they assess concussions during a match.

The FFR has reacted to the furore provoked by a clearly disorientated Toulouse centre Florian Fritz being sent back on in the Top 14 play-off with Racing-Metro in May after his head connected brutally with Francois van der Merwe's knee and he emerged with blood pouring from a head wound.

The federation will send an independent doctor to any team for the second part of the Top 14 campaign if they are found to have misdiagnosed a player during a game in the first half of the season. The teams involved must pay the wages and the costs of the doctor.

In spite of training sessions that we have held for a while now, team doctors have not been effectively applying our [safety] guidelines
French rugby’s medical chief Jean-Claude Peyrin

There will also be workshops for team officials and medical staff regarding the guidelines and the routine for diagnosis if a player is concussed.

The measures have come after Jean-Claude Peyrin, president of the FFR medical commission, said he choked with anger as he watched the images of how Fritz was treated on television.

"The next day I had an e-mail from the medical director of the International Rugby Board asking me what was going on in France," he said.

"The president [of the FFR] Pierre Camou also called me from Senegal."

Peyrin said that with concussion being one of the dominant issues in the sport the negligence shown in the Fritz case presented a catastrophic image to the world.

The federation, pressed by the IRB, is eager to discover the conclusions drawn by the French National Rugby League (LNR) in its inquiry into the incident.

"They saw everybody, including the Toulouse team doctor Albert Sadacca, on July 10," Peyrin said.

"Now we are saying to them [LNR] there is no time to lose."

But, whatever the result of the inquiry, there will be no punishment for the team.

"It is not possible under the rules," said Peyrin. "But we want what happened written down in black and white."

The Fritz case is just one example where the FFR is concerned by the number of concussions that have either not been diagnosed properly or have been completely ignored by team doctors.

"For the past two seasons we have - along with the LNR - co-financed a study with observers who watched all the matches on video and note down the incidents," said Peyrin.

"From this, we realised that in spite of training sessions that we have held for a while now, team doctors have not been effectively applying our guidelines."

According to the study's figures there were 58 cases of concussion last season with 18 either wrongly diagnosed or missed entirely on the pitch compared to 54 the previous season with 15 badly diagnosed.

More worrying for Peyrin is that 10 players, like Fritz, who underwent the pitch side concussion assessment - the IRB's system of posing questions to a player to see if he is clear-headed enough to resume playing - were wrongly sent back on to the pitch last season in comparison to five in the 2012-13 campaign.

"We said that things could not go on as they were and we had to come down strongly on such things happening," said Peyrin.