Northampton face no sanction over handling of George North’s concussion

Northampton did not ‘intentionally ignore the player’s best interests’ - Review Group

 Northampton were wrong to return George North to the field of play, a Review Group has found. Photograph: David Davies/PA

Northampton were wrong to return George North to the field of play, a Review Group has found. Photograph: David Davies/PA

 

Northampton were wrong to return George North to the field of play following a head injury against Leicester but have escaped any sanction, the Concussion Management Review Group (CMRG) has found.

North was injured in the first half of the Aviva Premiership clash on December 3rd but despite appearing to have been knocked unconscious, he passed a head injury assessment and was allowed to resume by Saints’ medical staff.

The CMRG set up to investigate the incident concluded that while there was “sufficient evidence” to end North’s involvement in the match, the club did not “intentionally ignore the player’s best interests”.

Instead of opening disciplinary proceedings against Northampton, the investigating group set up in partnership by the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby has made nine recommendations.

Among the recomendations are an instruction for the full 13 minutes allocated to Head Injury Assessments to be used unless there is clear reason to shorten it and that the team doctor must review video footage for permanent removal criteria both before commencing and after completing the HIA.

However, the biggest talking point arising from the review — all 17 pages of which have been published — is the decision not to sanction Northampton despite the error made by their medical team.

“The CMRG’s view is that there was sufficient evidence to conclude not only from the video evidence but also North’s history and risk stratification that he should not have returned to the field of play,” the review read.

“Northampton Saints medical team has accepted that North may have lost consciousness and therefore should not have returned to play.

“The CMRG considered the welfare of North was always at the centre of Northampton’s actions, and does not consider that the medical team (or the club) failed to complete the HIA protocol nor intentionally ignored the player’s best interests.

“In addition and although not a determining factor, the CMRG is aware that the player appears to have had no residual effects in the short term.

“For the above reasons the CMRG will not be imposing any sanction against the club or any of its individuals as a result of this incident.

“Instead, the Group has made nine clear recommendations in its report. In making its recommendations the CMRG is aware that this is the first incident of its kind to be reported in the Aviva Premiership following the introduction of a new concussion management system this season.”

North fell awkwardly following an aerial collision with Leicester wing Adam Thompstone early in the match at Welford Road.

Replays suggested the Wales international had been knocked unconscious, but Saints’ defence has hinged on the fact that not all of the angles of the replay were available at the time of assessment.

North, who has been examined by an independent specialist, has not displayed any concussion symptoms since the incident and could return to action against Sale on Friday.

“Northampton accepts the conclusion that George should not have been allowed to return to the field of play,” read a statement released by the club upon publication of the review.

“But we are pleased that the CMRG has reflected our concerns about the current technologies and processes available to medical teams when assessing concussion.

“The club believes that this is now an opportunity for the whole rugby community to reflect on the CMRG’s recommendations to ensure the highest levels of player safety and well-being.

“The club’s management remains absolutely confident in the expertise, professionalism and commitment of our medical teams and is encouraged to see that the CMRG has found that the medics had nothing other than player welfare in mind during this incident.”

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