SA Rugby and the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund on Wednesday lauded the professional approach applied by the medical teams on duty in SA Rugby’s competitions to ensure that they follow clinical best practice expectations to prevent concussions, and catastrophic head, neck and spine injuries in line with the BokSmart programme.
In the last few months two Springboks suffered serious injuries while on national and provincial duty, which also placed the spotlight firmly on the various medical teams.
In June, Pat Lambie sustained a complicated concussion, while his Springbok team-mate Julian Redelinghuys dislocated vertebrae in his neck earlier this month in the Currie Cup semi-final. These injuries placed both players heavily in the medical spotlight.
Lambie took a hard knock to the head in the first Springbok Test against Ireland in June and was sidelined for three months. Under the direct management of Cell C Sharks team doctor, Dr Alan Kourie, Lambie was cleared of all symptoms and successfully completed the graduated return to play protocol following concussion before making a return to the playing field. More information on concussion can be found at www.boksmart.com/concussion.
Redelinghuys dislocated his neck at the C5/C6 level in a tackle collision while carrying the ball into contact during his team’s Currie Cup semi-final against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on 15 October.
The swift action by the Xerox Golden Lions’ medical team, led by Dr Rob Collins, resulted in the severity of Redelinghuys’ injury being recognised early, him being properly stabilised on-field, sent to a specialist immediately and having surgery soon thereafter to reduce and fuse his vertebrae.
“SA Rugby, over the last nine years through the BokSmart programme, has made professional best practice a priority in dealing with injuries at all levels of the game with the primary aim of reducing concussions, and catastrophic head, neck and spine injuries,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.
“It is for this reason that the referees, and coaches, from school rugby sides right through to professional teams have to be BokSmart certified, and undergo recertification training every two years to remain current.
“The programme is also heavily involved in setting the minimum safety standards applied in South African rugby, and for providing up to date evidence-driven medical protocols, and it is clearly paying off.
“The doctors who assisted Pat and Julian in these two high-profile cases did a fantastic job, and I would like to extend a sincere thank you to them for their efforts. There have also been other cases this season where medical staff have acted swiftly to ensure that potentially serious injuries were managed well, and those efforts have not gone unnoticed.
“If we continue to build on these high standards, I have no doubt that we will continue to make massive strides in keeping catastrophic injuries to a minimum in South African rugby.”
Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund General Manager Gail Baerecke added: “It was a daunting sight to see Pat suffer his head injury, but thankfully he is back on the field, and we are grateful for the exemplary manner in which his injury was cautiously managed by all involved.
“The Players’ Fund made contact with Julian a day after his surgery, and he acknowledged the role of the Players’ Fund and expressed how grateful he was for the concern shown.
“The Fund currently supports 105 former players who have not been as fortunate as these two players. But we are pleased and proud to see the direct benefits of the BokSmart programme when injuries at the lower levels of the game are handled just as effectively by coaches and referees, who are BokSmart certified, and the side-line medical support staff present on the day.”
Lambie and Redelinghuys also expressed their gratitude for the professional manner in which their injuries were dealt with, and lauded SA Rugby’s efforts through the BokSmart programme to make the sport as safe as possible.
“I would like to thank the Springbok, Cell C Sharks and SA Rugby’s medical staff for the professional manner in which my injury was managed,” said Lambie.
“I was kept off the field until all the signs of concussion had cleared, and my condition was monitored consistently throughout this time. Although no rugby player enjoys sitting on the sideline and watching his team-mates in action, I know that the processes that have been put in place by SA Rugby and the BokSmart programme, have my long-term health and well-being interests in mind. Thanks to this professional approach I am back on the field and able to do what I love – play rugby.”
Redelinghuys said: “I am thankful to SA Rugby, and especially Xerox Golden Lions medical staff for their instant assistance when I suffered my neck injury. This professionalism and immediate action resulted in the injury being diagnosed swiftly and I was able to undergo surgery soon after.
“These actions prevented a potential catastrophic injury, and both I and my family, are very grateful for that. The awareness that the BokSmart programme has created over the last nine years, has clearly raised the standard of medical care that we as players experience, even at the professional level of the game.”