Q1. What was it that got you involved in RugbySafe and supporting player welfare?

I’ve had a love of rugby since I was a small child when my Dad took me around the Highlands of Scotland with the school teams he organised. I played for a few years at school but when I graduated as a Physiotherapist my attention turned to pitch-side duty and injury treatment. I started my “rugby physio” career with a level 8 club and then progressed to county age-grade teams and University.

Having tired of the weather conditions of the North East my focus changed again and I was asked to deliver continuous professional development (CPD) sessions for club physios and sports therapists across the county. I also became an RFU Educator for the Emergency First Aid in Rugby Union (EFARU) course.

Around this time RugbySafe was launched and I was approached by the CB to take on this role. I think it was also due the fact that whenever I visited a club, I had something to say about player welfare, first aid facilities, cars blocking ambulance access, etc!

Q2. Tell us about your CB/Club etc. and what you are doing to improve player welfare?

I am RugbySafe Lead for Northumberland CB which has 24 member clubs spread over a fairly large geographical area with some very rural clubs such as Border Park RFC and some far flung clubs such as Berwick RFC.

Initiatives I’ve been involved in include:

  1. Encouraging all clubs to appoint a RugbySafe Lead. So far, we’ve identified approximately 18 and had 2 successful events/meetings.
  2. The introduction of a reporting protocol for Suspected Concussions. This has been a huge success with growing support in clubs and schools from age-grade through to adult rugby. The improved communication between all parties involved in a player’s welfare such as parents, club, school, DPP, regarding suspected concussion has enhanced the Graded Return to Play (GRTP) process.
  3. Linking with two clinical commissioning Groups (CCGs) following the attendance of a Doctor on an EFARU course and having an article on Suspected Concussion and the GRTP process published in respective GP Newsletters. From this a group of GP Practices contacted me for a supply of Headcase leaflets.
  4. Continued CB subsidising of a number of EFARU courses for clubs through PFR funding. For example, an EFARU course for Physiotherapy students from Northumbria University with a reimbursement scheme of part of their fee if they provide first aid cover for rugby in Northumberland.
  5. Running a CPR and AED training event for Restart a Heart Day in October 2018 in response to anxieties raised by club members across the CB around the use of AEDs. By continuing to run these events we hope to alleviate the fears around the use of AEDs and encourage more clubs to look at getting this equipment.
  6. Hosting a Mental Health Awareness Launch Event with a Safeguarding counterpart for all clubs, schools and universities within the CB. We are partnering with Acorn Counselling who have been very successfully working along-side our neighbouring CB Durham. The plan is to hold training next season for interested individuals such as Club RugbySafe and Safeguarding Officers, similar to Mental Health First Aid but tailored to rugby and our local area.
  7. Continuing to deliver CPD sessions for healthcare professionals providing pitch-side cover across the CB and setting-up a closed Facebook group to help support them in their roles. Our CB is supporting Physiotherapists who are providing their services to our representative teams with the reimbursement of the fees for the RFU Pre-Hospital Immediate Care in Sport course.

As you can see, we have plenty of invaluable initiatives!

Q3. What’s the most rewarding thing about your role?

I think it is inbuilt as a physio to want to help people and to derive satisfaction from making a difference to someone’s quality of life. In this RugbySafe role it’s rewarding to see teams/clubs who previously struggled with no physio or first aider to have someone in that role looking after player welfare. It is rewarding to know that a player’s welfare is being looked after across the game by all interested parties with regards to suspected concussion and GRTP.

In a nutshell it’s rewarding to think that people can enjoy the game that I love so much in a safe environment where they are looked after. They can hopefully play for as long as possible and then go on to give back to the game that they also love.

Q4. Tell us a bit about the photo or video that reflects the work you are doing to promote RugbySafe best practice?

Q5. Do you have any tips for other CB/Club etc. trying to improve player welfare standards?

Don’t give up! Engage and empower all parties that you want onboard as early and as much as possible. Let them see why you are trying to do what you are doing and how it will benefit them.

Ask for and acknowledge their opinions and get their help. Where you don’t have the necessary knowledge ask someone who does. There are lots of people in your CB and local RFU team who will have the knowledge and I’m sure will help. Or, look up the Essential Guides on the RugbySafe part of the RFU website.

Lastly, start with the basics such as “is the correct level of first aid provision in place at my club/CB?”. The RugbySafe “Guide to Providing First Aid and Immediate Care Provision in the Community Game” is a great starting point.