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Health & Safety

Health & Safety

A rugby referee’s No.1 priority will always be PLAYER SAFETY

World Rugby and the IRFU provide advice for players, coaches and referees on various aspects of Health & Safety.

A referee’s First Aid responsibility is limited to ensuring that any injured player is protected from further harm and immediate access provided to the best possible medical care.  If in doubt make sure play stops immediately – common sense prevails.

If the referee decides (with or without medical advice) that it would be inadvisable for a player to continue, the referee orders that player to leave the playing area.

The referee may also order an injured player to leave the field in order to be medically examined (Law 3.23).

Information on the symptoms and impacts of concussion is now widely available.

World Rugby’s message is simple: ‘Recognise and Remove’.

Referees are not required to have expert medical responsibility but should be aware of the need to recognise on field signs and symptoms of concussion.  In any situation where there is doubt over a player’s ability to safely return to play we must ensure the player is removed from the game and does not return.  This is covered within Law 24 (and Law 22c).

Referees must formally and clearly handover responsibility for a player with suspected or confirmed concussion to a person of responsibility on the pitch or sideline.  A recommended statement is:

‘I am removing this player from the field of play with a suspected concussion.  They now need to be monitored and should be assessed medically.’

Referees must also advise the Ulster Branch (or relevant match/tournament organiser) if a player has been removed from a game due to suspected concussion.  The player’s club and Branch have responsibility for following the appropriate protocols.

Enforcing the laws of the game, particularly with regard to dangerous tackles and foul play, is a critical part of a referee’s responsibility for preventing serious injuries including concussion.

All referees should familiarise themselves with the content of the IRFU’s video on ‘Concussion & the Referee’:

If in doubt, sit them out!

See also the following link to IRFU’s Post Concussion Care Protocols for the Amateur Game:


A handy wallet card format concussion guide is available here:

IRFU Concussion Guide

IRFU’s SAFE Rugby (Standard Approach to Field Emergencies) programme aims to provide rugby specific, pitch side emergency care training and skills to medical staff and non medical individuals involved at all levels in Irish rugby.

There are 3 different levels of SAFE Rugby training available – the Level 1 course is specifically targeted at non-medical referees, club and school coaches, players and parents.

Following the same key principles as the other levels, it is very user friendly and allows plenty of time to have all of those questions that you had stowed away to be answered by our instructors.

The course is not mandatory for IRFU referees but anyone interested can find details of available courses via the following link: http://bookings.irishrugby.ie/home.php?cat=1

All referees, players and coaching staff are reminded that formal Head Injury Assessment protocols only apply to the professional game. At all levels of amateur/domestic rugby including All Ireland League, any player removed from the field of play for precautionary reasons under concussion protocols may not return to play.

H.I.A. protocol details for referees officiating in relevant matches are found in the PROFESSIONAL section in Competition Aids.

All incidents of suspected concussion plus injuries that involve formal medical attention, ambulance or hospitalisation should be reported to the Ulster Branch. Referees should email the player’s name, club and brief details of the incident as soon as possible following the match to: jill.mccullough@ulsterrugby.com

Referees are encouraged to familiarise themselves with IRFU guidelines on Advisory External Defibrillators (AEDs) for associated clubs and schools: