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GPs 'not confident' to clear rugby players after concussion

A Welsh Rugby Union study has found that a significant number of GPs are not confident about clearing players to return to the game after a concussion injury.

Dr Steph Foulkes-Moran, team doctor for the WRU’s women’s team and a GP in Pontyclun, South Wales, conducted a survey of GPs in Wales and found that respondents were ‘split’ on the idea that they should be the ones to give such authorisation.

Dr Foulkes-Moran timed her survey to coincide with the rugby World Cup, and has received 269 responses from GPs - although she is unable to draw definitive conclusions yet.

The survey included questions about their knowledge of concussion symptoms and treatment, and the length of time that affected players should wait before playing again.

WRU guidance states that players with concussion should return to playing only after ‘clearance by a medical practitioner or physiotherapist’, and so these people generally go to their GP for authorisation, said Dr Foulkes-Moran, a former rugby player herself who once represented Wales at student level.

She added: ‘Most rugby is played in community or rural settings and so people with concussion injuries don’t have access to doctors specialising in sports injuries. They mostly present to their GPs. We asked GPs if they would be prepared to manage concussion and the response has been variable. Confidence is pretty split among GPs about clearing people to play after injuries. We want to increase GPs’ knowledge, so doing some kind of continuing professional developing is a possibility.’

Dr Foulkes-Moran is conducting her research as part of an MSc

Readers' comments (4)

  • "We want to increase GPs’ knowledge, so doing some kind of continuing professional developing is a possibility.’"

    Or how about: this isn't a GMS service. GPs don't need to be involved at all?

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  • I agree with the above.
    This is not a GPs job or role.

    It would be far more worrying if the survey found that GPs were confident to do this - Then there would be a problem!

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  • I'd be surprised if the indemnity cover of a GP who doesn't also have a formal role as a sports medicine practitioner took into account the risk involved in making such an assessment. The same applies to boxing and other combat sports.

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  • Thanks for your comments.

    Our aim was to assess current knowledge regarding the diagnosis and management of sport related concussion, as well as awareness of available published guidelines regarding return to play protocols.

    These national guidelines may result in more players (of all ages) presenting to their own GP asking for advice following a suspected concussive episode.

    The timing of the survey and the RWC was coincidental.

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