Saints face no sanctions for handling of North incident

George North suffered a head injury at Welford Road earlier this month (picture: Sharon Lucey)
George North suffered a head injury at Welford Road earlier this month (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Saints will face no sanctions for their handling of George North’s head injury in the game at Leicester Tigers on December 3.

North landed awkwardly after an aerial collision with Leicester wing Adam Thompstone in the 16th minute of the match at Welford Road.

Replay angles, which the Saints medical staff say they did not see, appeared to show that they 24-year-old had been knocked unconscious and he was off the field for eight minutes having a head injury assessment (HIA).

But he was deemed fit enough to return to the action and played the remainder of the match.

North has not suffered any concussion symptoms since the incident but was sent to see an independent specialist and was advised to to stand down from action.

He now appears to have been given the all clear and could face Sale Sharks in Friday’s Aviva Premiership fixture at Franklin’s Gardens.

The Concussion Management Review Group finally released its report two days before that Sale clash and though it was acknowledged that North should not have returned to the field of play at Leicester, it is stressed that Saints always placed the player’s welfare at the top of their priority list.

The CMRG also “did not consider that the medical team (or club) failed to complete HIA protocol nor intentionally ignored the player’s best interests.”

Julian Morris, independent chairman of the Concussion Management Review Group said: “This is the first review into a head injury incident we have seen following the introduction of the concussion management system this season in the Aviva Premiership.

“We wanted the review - which was primarily around the medical management and treatment of George North - to be thorough and rigorous to ensure that we fully understood the circumstances of this case.

“While the challenges in the consistent delivery of best practice in the on-field management of head injuries in professional sport are recognised, player welfare is paramount to the game of rugby.

“We believe that the clear recommendations put forward by this group will minimise the risk of incidents of this nature happening in the future, as well as providing ways to improve the systems and processes in place to protect the welfare of players.

“The Group notes the MyPlayXplay system, involving the use of PVRs, medical teams and modern technology is a valued addition to the concussion management of players during match day.

“All parties, from players to governing bodies, should continue to support its functioning and development as its aim is, player welfare.”

The CMRG released nine recommendations, which are as follows...

1. George North follows the graduated return to play protocol to optimise his recovery.

2. The pitch side video reviewer (PVR) should remain in their allocated seat.

3. Wireless connectivity should be checked for those allocated seats.

4. Consideration be given to the introduction of a ‘support PVR’ to ensure that the video feeds continue to be monitored and additional clips can be downloaded if the PVR is discussing matters with the medical team (e.g. over radio link) or the development of automatically downloaded clips of incidents.

5. At the forthcoming mid-season Premiership Club medical meetings, planned for February 2017, the reviewing and training team emphasise and re-enforce the necessity to review footage before starting the HIA assessment and the criteria in respect of permanent removal from the field of play.

6. The team doctor must review the video footages for permanent removal criteria both before commencing and after completing the HIA assessment in the medical room (or designated HIA area).

7. Irrespective of whether part of the HIA assessment has or has not been carried out on the pitch, the entire HIA must be completed again once in the medical room by the examining doctor.

8. The maximum permitted time for an HIA process, in the Aviva Premiership in the 2016-17 season is 13 minutes. Given the importance of the HIA assessment in respect of player welfare the HIA should not be unduly shortened without clear reason.

9. Hard wire live feeds should be reinstated to the medical/HIA rooms with recording and play back facility which would add resilience to the wireless MyPlayXplay system both in terms of functionality and also definition if, for any reason, there is an issue with the main (Wi-Fi) system.