'Changes to the system cannot be at the expense of safety'
BokSmart has set a very ambitious target of zero catastrophic injuries and breaches in rugby safety standards in South African rugby with a long-term initiative called #VisionZero.
The key motivation behind #VisionZero is to aim for that ultimate point where there eventually are no more rugby-related catastrophic spinal injuries, traumatic brain injuries, cardiac fatalities and severe concussions.
As a secondary focus #VisionZero also extends to other areas of the game where full adherence to rugby safety regulations is achieved through safe playing fields, all referees and coaches being BokSmart certified, and the minimum medical staffing and equipment being provided at all matches, among other factors.
“#VisionZero is not a target to be achieved by a certain date or time,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux
(pictured) . “More aptly described, it is rather a process whereby all rugby stakeholders work together actively towards the ultimate goal of achieving sustainable interventions and zero catastrophic injuries or events in South African rugby union.
“#VisionZero by its very name implies that safety is a more important area than any other issue, and that all decisions must be made with safety as the primary consideration. Everything else must be secondary to that. Changes to the system cannot be at the expense of safety.”
Dr Wayne Viljoen, SA Rugby Senior Manager Rugby Safety, added: “#VisionZero is focused primarily on avoiding rugby-related fatalities and that catastrophic concussion, head, neck and spinal injuries where the victim does not physically recover.
“This is not something that will happen overnight, but if all the stakeholders in the game can get behind this initiative collectively, there is an opportunity to make significant inroads in moving towards #VisionZero.
“While we might be seen as setting the bar very high with this target, the sheer fact that it is an overly ambitious goal should not prevent us from continually trying to reach it, as no loss of life can ever be seen as acceptable, and this also refers to a loss of functional living such as with quadriplegia.”
With BokSmart 5 already doing the rounds, the #VisionZero concept will be rolled out in the next BokSmart cycle of educational videos, concussion guides, BokSmart toolkit manuals and accompanying educational materials.
It will also be incorporated into the BokSmart rugby safety courses associated with the sixth cycle of BokSmart training, which equips individuals with the knowledge and skills to apply safe rugby techniques and basic medical and injury prevention practices. BokSmart certification is compulsory for all coaches and referees and this has to be renewed every two years.