The Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project (PRISP) for the 2015-16 season was published showing an increase in concussion for the fifth season running, the Daily Mail report.

The annual report, the most comprehensive injury study in professional rugby, reported the incidence of overall match-day injuries was lower than any other season since the study began in 2002 - seven years after the sport turned professional - although concussion remains the most commonly reported injury, accounting for approximately 25 per cent of all match day injuries.

World Rugby, the sports world governing body, have introduced tough new sanctions in recent weeks with a 'zero tolerance' approach to head contact in a bid to reduce the high numbers of concussions, which RFU chief medical officer Simon Kemp insist are down to better reporting and education around the issue and not the increasingly physical nature of professional rugby.

The controversial Head Injury Assessment, first introduced in 2013, has attracted criticism for allowing players - including George North and Conor Murray in recent weeks - to return to play after appearing to suffer a loss of consciousness.


Initiatives to reduce the number of concussions - an injury which has been linked with long-term neurodegenerative problems - have looked at reducing the height of the tackle, although with just 20 per cent of tackle injury concussions sustained by the ball carrier and 47 per cent by the tackler, that policy could now be re-examined.

The increase in the number of injuries to England players was put down to increased number of matches in World Cup year, although questions will be asked about the nature of some training camps, which have seen a high rate of injuries in recent months.

Overall concussion is now the most common and highest risk match injury with the average concussion side-lining a player for 13 days, or the equivalent of one match.

Simon Kemp, RFU Chief Medical Officer said: 'This is an important study that helps us understand injury trends in the professional game in England. Since this surveillance project began in 2002 the injury rate has remained relatively stable however last season has shown a decline in match injuries; lower than any other season. We need to be cautious about interpreting the data in a Rugby World Cup year that led to a change in the domestic season structure. We certainly can't now say that the professional game is safer from these single-season results and we need to continue to monitor injury risk to clarify if this is a trend or not.

'The continued rise in the number of reported concussions in the professional game continues to be an area of priority focus for everyone involved in the game. Medical staff are all working extremely hard to ensure that we are identifying and managing this complex injury well. We all want players who are subsequently diagnosed with concussion to be removed from the field of play at the time of injury and recognise that this approach is likely to see an increase in the number of reported concussions. While we continue to 'recognise and remove', our focus must now be on concussion prevention.

'We know that the tackle is where the overwhelming majority of concussions occur and welcome the recent initiatives around zero tolerance to contact with the head from World Rugby. We anticipate that these initiatives are most likely to reduce the risk to the ball carrier. Two thirds of all concussions are sustained by the tackler; 47% of all injuries to the tackler are now concussions and developing interventions to reduce the risk to the tackler must now be the priority.'

Corin Palmer, Head of Rugby Operations at Premiership Rugby said: 'Player welfare is Premiership Rugby's number one priority and the Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project continues to provide important information which allows us alongside our 12 clubs to establish and maintain world-class standards when treating any player who has been injured in any way.

'The focus on concussion from everyone in the game shows the cultural change resulting from Premiership Rugby's work with the RFU and the RPA to increase awareness and education about the seriousness of concussion has come into effect in every area of the professional game. This is reflected in the increase in reported concussions and the excellent compliance with the concussion return to play guidelines from all of our clubs.

'Premiership Rugby and the 12 Premiership Rugby clubs are committed to continuing to work with the RFU and the RPA to ensure that we are at the forefront of research into the best tools to recognise concussion and to protect our players.'

Richard Bryan the Rugby Director for the Rugby Players' Association added: 'Rugby has a duty of care to its players to ensure that they compete in an environment where their welfare is placed before any other considerations. As such, monitoring both the severity and frequency of injuries sustained in training and during matches is of vital importance. Clearly, the rise in reported concussions continues to be a top priority for all stakeholders to address, although this does also indicate that education on the issue is having an effect.

'While the overall incidence of injury is lower than that reported in any previous season, single-season results need to be treated with caution, particularly given injury severity remained high. Our members accept that injury is an inevitable part of the game, however, they also expect appropriate welfare provisions to be in place for them and the game must continue to focus on mitigating risk through research, education and the appropriate management of injuries.'