The Scots College Old Boys' Union

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Eye Guide technology in use

Thought Leadership: Scots Concussion Program

Sport has been an integral part of the Scots culture since its foundation. We know it offers so much for young boys: sheer enjoyment, learning how to work as a team, personal growth and leadership, not to mention the benefits to physical fitness and body confidence.

The exhilaration of competition, and the necessity of game-like training, comes with its own set of risks, and one of the most concerning is the issue of sports-related concussions. Concussions have garnered increasing attention in recent years due to the better known effects on athletes’ long-term health and wellbeing.

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The Scots 2nd XV take on Joeys on the Main Oval in 1984

Thankfully, since 2015 the College has been ahead of the game

The College’s Sport Department and College Clinic staff are very aware that children and adolescents are more susceptible to concussion, take longer to recover and can have more complications if not appropriately handled.

Thankfully, since 2015 the College has been ahead of the game with the internally operated Scots Concussion Program, a joint initiative of the Sport Department and College Clinic, under the direction of Dr Andrew McDonald and his team of four sports medicine doctors who have experience in the identification and treatment of concussion.

Immediately after the occurrence of an on-field head injury, the player is removed from play and is assessed by a medical professional. The student will then appear for a secondary assessment on the Monday after the game at the College Clinic. Following this and with the doctor’s approval the player commences the World Rugby Graduated Return to Play (GRTP) steps, specifically designed for players under the age of 18.

Current Scots Director of Sport (10-12), Mr Brian Smith, who also spent 20 years as an international rugby player and coach, explains that the Scots Concussion Program is primarily for players with head injuries sustained playing or training for rugby.

“We are mindful concussion can occur in any sports program or in the playground. To ensure we comply with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) protocols we regularly check the AIS Concussion and Brain Health Position Statement 2023 that is regularly updated. Our findings are that the World Rugby and Rugby Australia guidelines are the most stringent,” he said.

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World Rugby's Graduated Return to Play (GRTP) steps

Former Australian Wallaby and father of Preparatory School student, Oliver Bowman (Year 6), Tom Bowman (’94), knows firsthand the seriousness of concussions.

“I’ve certainly experienced my share of concussions at all levels of rugby and it was always an unnerving time.

We know professional sporting organisations are taking this very seriously these days so it’s great to see Scots being so proactive and careful with our young fellas.”

The GRTP ensures that increasing levels of activity do not provoke a recurrence of the symptoms of concussion in the player. The player may progress to a new stage every 24 to 48 hours, provided that the current stage (step) does not provoke symptoms.

If any symptoms occur while going through the GRTP program, the player must return to the previous stage.

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Former Australian Wallaby, Tom Bowman (’94), with a trademark hit-up in the Scots 1st XV Rugby against Sydney Grammar School in 1993.

Other than coaching our players on correct or better technique to reduce the risk of head knocks and possible concussion, the Scots Concussion Program is working with external companies to trial revolutionary technologies to diagnose concussion on the spot. One such company is EyeGuide.

With Australian operations based in Melbourne, EyeGuide technologies take 1,200 images of a person’s eye tracking an object on a screen for ten seconds, and in that time can objectively measure brain function. The machine can diagnose a concussion immediately.

EyeGuide is being used by professional football codes in Australia and by World Rugby in Europe’s United Rugby Championship.

The Scots Old Boys’ community, along with the parents and carers, should be proud and reassured that the College’s Sport Department is working with the best professionals and technology in the diagnosis and treatment of concussion, and implementing the most up-to-date return to play procedures for the boys.

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Eye Guide technology in use

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