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Frequently Asked Questions - Health Issues

Please scroll down for the answers to the following questions. For any other queries, please contact health@rfu.com.

  1. Can I play rugby with glasses on?
  2. I need to wear a hearing aid, can I still play?
  3. What protective kit can players wear?
  4. I was concussed in my last match - when can I play again?
  5. I think blades are dangerous but people at my club wear them - are they allowed?
  6. I want to be fitter/stronger/faster what supplements can I take? 

Answers:

1. Can I play rugby with glasses on?

As you may be aware, the RFU and Constituent Bodies have received a number of complaints over the last season relating to the prohibition on sports goggles in all contact rugby at all ages. Discussions and considerable efforts have therefore been taking place internally for some time and the RFU has been liaising closely with the Association of British Dispensing Opticians to develop a practical solution to provide a wider degree of flexibility to enable great social inclusion in rugby union.

The RFU has therefore decided to introduce in England a trial that would enable the wearing of certain sport goggles (dispensed under professional supervision) by players playing contact rugby at the Under 13 age grade and below. This trial is a variation of the RFU’s current regulations, which prohibits all types of goggles to be worn in contact rugby.

Whilst for the most part the trial will not take full hold until next season, the RFU recognises that some players may be in a position to adhere to the conditions of the trial in this current season. If this is the case, the RFU sees no reason why such players should be prevented from participating in the trial this season, provided all of the trial conditions are satisfied.

To this end, the trial will commence with immediate effect and will last until the end of the 2014-15 season, whereupon the position will be reviewed further.

Conditions of the trial

The trial will permit players playing contact rugby at the Under 13 age grade and below to wear specially designed and manufactured sports goggles subject to the following conditions (all of which must be met):

  • (a) The sports goggles must be dispensed by a registered dispensing optician who is a member of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians* (ABDO)
  • (b) The player must have written confirmation from the ABDO dispensing optician that the sports goggles:
    • i. Are required to correct the vision of the player or are required to protect the player’s eyes due to a medical condition, to enable the playing of rugby union; and
    • ii. Do not substantially restrict any normal field of vision and are suitable for use in evasion contact sports; and
    • iii. Do not constitute a physical danger to the player or other players
  • (c) The match referee is entitled to object to the player wearing the sports goggles if the referee reasonably believes that they are unsafe
  • (d) Clubs must notify the RFU Legal Officer of all players participating in the trial by emailing AlysLewis@rfu.com 
  • (e) Clubs must report any injuries caused as a result of the sports goggles to the RFU Community Medical Team by emailing sportsinjuriesadmin@therfu.com and the player’s parents must report the injury to the ABDO dispensing optician who prescribed the goggles

*If an optician is registered with the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, the optician will be listed on the General Optical Council’s list of registered members, which is available at www.optical.org. Please check the list by inserting the name of the individual optician or opticians' practice. 

Queries

Should you have any queries or require further clarification and guidance in relation to the proposed trial, please contact your local Constituent Body or Alys Lewis on AlysLewis@rfu.com.

2. I need to wear a hearing aid, can I still play?

The RFU has been in contact with the England Deaf Rugby Union (EDRU) to discuss a future policy on the wearing of hearing aids and cochlear implants. EDRU are seeking the views of the National Deaf Sports Council and the Deaf Association and the other Nations' Deaf Rugby Governing Bodies to ensure that we have a consensus.

Whilst we want to be as inclusive as possible, we have to bear in mind the risk of injury to the payer wearing the aid and other players from contact with the device and broken devices.

Both the RFU's coaching dept and the referees dept are looking to develop guidelines and help coaches access appropriate training to help them coach disabled players in general.

Useful links:

UK Deaf Sport

Sports Coach UK  

3. What protective kit can players wear?

The RFU strongly recommend that mouthguards are worn for any contact rugby sessions - it is also recommended that such mouthguards should be custom fitted.

There are cheaper alternatives available such as "boil in the bag" or pre-moulded mouthguards but the reduced level of fit and protection offered should be considered when making a decision.

Mouthguards are compulsory for all school players involved in rugby activities above school level (County, Division and England Representative Squads)

The IRB has regulations about the type of kit that can be worn and approved suppliers for head guards, shoulder pads and women's protective clothing.

4. I was concussed in my last match – when can I play again?

Players with suspected concussion must go through a graded Return to Play Protocol with medical practitioner clearance before a return to play

For further advice please refer to the concussion guidelines in the first aid section of the website.

5. I think blades are dangerous but people at my club wear them – are they allowed?

Blades and studs are currently both acceptable as footwear for rugby (as long as they comply with the IRB regulations below). There is not currently a kite mark for rugby boots; manufacturers self certify their studs or blades against regulation 12 to check that they cause no more damage than traditional studs.

The RFU is working with the IRB and the British Standards Institute on this matter to ensure safety standards are appropriate for the game, in the meantime Referees should always check footwear for any sharp or dangerous parts before kick-off in a match.

IRB Regulations and advice to clubs:

BOOTS (including ‘Blades’) - LAW 4

LAW 4 deals with players’ clothing - which includes footwear.

LAW 4(3) deals with studs as follows:

(a)   Studs of players’ boots must conform with the IRB Specification set out in IRB Regulation 12.

(b)   Moulded rubber multi-studded soles are acceptable provided they have no sharp edges or ridges.

LAW 4(4) deals with BANNED ITEMS OF CLOTHING and this includes:

(b)  A player must not wear any item that is sharp or abrasive.

(h)  A player must not wear any item that is normally permitted by Law, but in the referee’s opinion that is liable to cause injury to a player.

(i)  A player must not wear a single stud at the toe of the boot.

LAW 4(5) deals with INSPECTION OF PLAYERS’ CLOTHING and this includes:

The referee or the touch judges appointed by or under the authority of the match organiser inspect the players’ clothing and studs for conformity to this Law.

The referee has power to decide at any time, before or during the match, that part of a player’s clothing is dangerous or illegal. If the referee decides that clothing is dangerous or illegal the referee must order the player to remove it. The player must not take part in the match until the items of clothing are removed.

COMMENT

All studs worn must comply with Law 4.

The IRB has contacted all known manufacturers of boots (irrespective of whether or not they are specifically made for rugby use) and this includes manufacturers of ‘blades’. These manufacturers are required by the IRB to self certify that their studs comply with Law 4.

‘Blades’ include Adidas Exchangeable Traxion Studs.

Referees and touch judges will inspect boots only to check that they are safe to play in. They will check that there are no sharp edges or burring etc.

Referees and touch judges will not be looking for kite marks or similar approval markings or manufacturers details.

ADVICE:

Players must always:

  • Check that their studs are safe to play in Reject any boots that have sharp edges or burring etc.
  • Ask their retailer for confirmation that the manufacturer complies with IRB Specifications.
  • The final responsibility is with the players to ensure that they play in safe boots.

6. I want to be fitter/stronger/faster what supplements can I take?

The first point to make is that, except at the elite level where small variations in performance can make a difference, supplements are not normally required by individuals who have no special dietary needs for health reasons. 

A varied, wholesome and balanced diet, based largely on vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, grains, animal meats, oils and carbohydrates will provide sufficient carbohydrate, protein, minerals and vitamins to meet training and competitive needs.   

While you may see rugby players and other athletes endorsing supplement products, this is no guarantee that they are safe to use. By safe, we mean; do not contain banned doping substance, and have no adverse health side effects. No manufacturer has the ability to provide a 100% guarantee that their products are free from banned doping substances although there is some work being done in this area now; we will keep the rugby community posted of any developments as they arise. Until this work is complete, the RFU is not in a position to ''endorse'' products.

Recent studies have shown that up to 25% of dietary supplements on sale to athletes may contain small amounts of banned substances, commonly including anabolic steroids and stimulants, with a few supplements containing large quantities of these substances. These would cause and have caused positive drug tests. There are also a few concerns over certain products and there long term safety in terms of health, because few have been studied to the extent that drugs are. Again, there is often new research being published in this area, and we will keep the rugby community informed of developments.

Remember: players take supplements at their own risk and are personally responsible for any consequences from such ingestion. We would advise you to seek professional guidance from a qualified medical practitioner, accredited sports dietician and/or a registered nutritionist about your diet and any supplements you may be thinking of taking.

More information is available in the anti-doping section of the RFU website. We would also recommend looking at the UK Sport website for further information, www.100percentme.co.uk, which also has links to guides on nutrition. For more information about supplement quality control, visit www.informed-sport.com