Head Trauma is increasingly in the spotlight given scientific advances and a greater understanding of the effects of concussion. 

Education around concussion is a core topic in RugbySmart and the implementation of the Blue Card is an excellent initiative, giving the referee the power to sideline a player until they are medically cleared to play again.

As part of the focus on player welfare and guided by World Rugby, NZR has adopted a recommendation of Recognise, Remove, Recovery and Return. These recommendations align with NZR’s primary purpose of the community concussion management pathway (CMP) which are:

  1. Players are removed from the field of play following any suspected concussion
  2. Players are referred into a General Practitioner for a medical diagnosis assessment following their suspected concussion
  3. Medical clearance is provided for any suspected concussion prior to the player return to contact training


The challenge now is to ensure these recommendations are executed in the community for each and every suspected concussion.

The Foundation has been a longtime advocate of accident prevention, so we were pleased to contribute to the cutting edge, peer-reviewed and publishable research project by New Zealand Rugby, AUT and Otago University that started in 2020 and will continue into 2021 and 2022.

The collaboration has already:

  1. Employed a lead researcher full time to support the analysis of the qualitative data
  2. Submitted a journal article to: International Journal of Sport Science and Coaching examining The Rugby tug-of-war: Exploring concussion-related behavioural intentions and behaviours in youth community rugby in New Zealand
  3. Developed a full draft of a journal article titled: Concussion education for New Zealand high school rugby players: A multi-methods analysis of the impact on concussion knowledge, attitudes, and reporting behaviours.
  4. Created an initial draft of a journal article titled: GP perspectives of New Zealand Rugby’s Concussion Management Pathway
  5. Completed analysis on a journal article titled: Managing concussion in the real word: Stakeholder perspectives of New Zealand Rugby’s Concussion Management Pathway
  6. Entered the final stage of analysis of the data for a journal article titled: Concussion roles and responsibilities across a community rugby system – an AcciMaps approach
  7. Established an honours project with the University of Otago to look at the perceived value of baseline testing
  8. Worked to establish a Master’s project with AUT to examine physiotherapists’ perspectives of New Zealand Rugby’s Concussion Management Pathway

For more detail around any of these projects click the concussion update button.

The research continues into 2021/2022 led by Dr. Danielle Salmon (NZR).


The Foundation works very closely with NZR and ACC in terms of general safety messages.

RugbySmart was developed jointly by NZR and ACC. It's all about lifting team performance by ensuring players are physically and technically at their peak before they put their bodies on the line. RugbySmart is based around ACC SportSmart, the 10-point action plan for sports injury prevention. It's a comprehensive approach that is about keeping players where coaches and supporters want them: on the field, contributing to a winning team effort.

All clubs, schools and referee associations are required to register their players, coaches, referees and other volunteers each rugby season. The registration process enables Provincial Unions and NZR to administer the game and provide support for everyone involved. All coaches in New Zealand who coach above U13 have to attend a RugbySmart safety course annually. They are not allowed to coach if they have not done so. Small Blacks coaches also attend an annual Small Blacks Coaching course which is tailored to cover safety requirements at each level of development. The NZRU manages a vigilant programme around injury prevention – the role of the Foundation is to assist with communicating the message to rugby communities far and wide.

To learn more about RugbySmart and its proposed outcomes click here.