In an open letter to World Rugby, the lobby group outlined the concerns, along with an action plan. Suggested to improve overall security and protect players.
These proposals include a limit on contact in training sessions, restricting match substitutions only to injured players – to reduce the incidence of new players making high-impact tackles on tired players – and a guaranteed minimum number of days off between seasons.
They would also include a ‘health passport ‘professional for players and further education at all levels regarding head injury and concussion management.
The group says that an extension of the minimum number of days must be established before a player can return after a concussion should be established for at least three weeks, while World Rugby should establish a ‘concussion fund’, and training packages in place to teach safe approaches to techniques for young players.
James Haskell, 35, who played for the Wasps and Northampton, believes more needs to be done at a faster pace to help learn from the past and protect the next generation.
“Everything I do in rugby, I have always been concerned that they were very slow and that much of what we do in a team sport is due to fear,” he said.
“If they didn’t hit (in practice) on Tuesday, then they are not prepared for Saturday, but that’s due to mental preparation, so I always wondered why we were doing so much extra training.
“It always worried me that we are doing things out of fear and never out of science.
“It’s a game that I love, it’s a dangerous game, and I have no concerns at this point about dementia, it’s something I have to monitor, and I was lucky during my career to have a limited number of concussions.
“But I strongly believe that the game needs to change things.”
Haskell questioned the science behind reducing mandatory concussion interruption from three weeks to one week, saying there was too much contact in training in a modern era where so many players were “all the guys are just as big as the rest.” .
“We can certainly take better care of players, in the way they deal with concussion – a lot of it gets under the rug or it doesn’t get done. We choose to ignore many things, ”he said.
“There are players like Alix (Popham) and my former teammate Dylan Hartley who are concerned if they are going to have early-onset dementia.
“We need to take a position and I don’t think that as a physical game we can be much safer, but we can do much more for the players.
Why is a physical therapist evaluating a head injury? Where did they go to study neurology? There is much more we can do in those areas. “
Haskell added: “What we can do to change is say, ‘Okay, why is Steve Thompson in this situation? What could we have done better? ‘
“What can we change in the amount of training we do, the medical care, the approach to concussion and how we take care of the players?
“I think we can do much, much more, and we have to stop talking lip-service, because people are dating it and it’s in our faces.”
Dr. Barry O’Driscoll resigned from his position with the IRB in 2012 to protest the governing body’s concussion protocols and head injury assessments.
“It was going bad and bad, and it has gotten worse since then,” he said. “The training has gotten more difficult, the impacts have gotten bigger and there are more head injuries than ever.”
O’Driscoll, himself a former Ireland international player, added: “They haven’t done anything, we have to move faster on this. Let’s do something: alter the amount of head trauma in the game without destroying the integrity (of the sport). “
World Rugby issued a statement in response to Progressive Rugby’s open letter, emphasizing that “the well-being of the world rugby family is, and has always been” their “priority”.
“We take our responsibility very seriously and care deeply for our past, present and future players,” the statement added, noting that several of the proposed initiatives are already operational or under review.
“We are encouraged by the group to champion a number of initiatives that are already operational or under consideration and we are open to constructive discussions with them on their proposals.”