New Zealand Rugby, while sympathetic and moved by the plight of former players battling dementia, says that its obligation is to protect the current generation.

Speaking today at the unveiling of New Zealand Rugby's financial results for 2015, chief executive Steve Tew said the issue of concussion and potential related long term health consequences remains complicated with no definitive answers.

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New Zealand Rugby is recognised as having been a chief driver in trying to change attitudes towards concussion in rugby and implementing better detection methods and return-to-play protocols.


The campaign for change has been a top priority for both World Rugby and New Zealand Rugby since 2012 and the World Cup signified how much better the game has become at recognising or suspecting concussion and then removing players.

Results from the tournament showed that no player who wasn't removed from the field presented with concussion after they had played. That effectively means the system detected all those who had suffered a serious head knock and successfully prevented everyone with concussion from playing on. There were several cases were players didn't fail the concussion testing, but were removed from the field anyway.

"What I would say is that under World Rugby's leadership and with unions taking this matter very seriously there have been some significant developments about how we deal with concussion," said Tew. "At Rugby World Cup - the Head Injury Assessment tool and the video analysis being available to the medical staff on the sideline, there were no reported concussions presentations from players who were not removed from the field. Across 48 matches that is a significant step forward."

The current series by the Herald, however, has unearthed the possible historic toll that the game has taken. The current concussion testing and protocols have only been in play for the past few years - and there could be several generations of players who suffer health complications that may have some link to head knocks they suffered while playing rugby.

When asked how much responsibility New Zealand Rugby should take for these historic cases, Tew said: "It is an incredibly sensitive topic isn't it? I think we all read the articles of late with considerable compassion and concern.

"But it is a complicated issue and even the highly skilled and trained medical professionals can not give you a definitive answer on a whole load of really important questions. Right now our responsibility is the current game and making sure we do the right thing for the players who are playing now both at the community and professional level. While we will never say enough is enough, I am really comfortable that we are working really, really hard in that regard."