USA Rugby seeks World Rugby review of procedure after Paylor injury

Consulting with World Rugby officials, USA Rugby opens assessment of review process

LAFAYETTE, CO - In the months since University of California rugby player Robert Paylor's devastating injury, USA Rugby has methodically reviewed the incident to better prevent such occurrences in the future.

Player welfare is USA Rugby's number one priority and a research-based approach is important in continuing to protect the safety of all athletes and USA Rugby members. In order to define best practices in such cases, USA Rugby requested a full review from World Rugby, judging the NGB's procedures and protocol in response to the incident. After careful appraisal, World Rugby determined the "process employed by USA Rugby to investigate the incident was detailed, thorough and appropriate."

The USA Rugby organization and board of directors are aware of the delicate and debated climate this incident has established, with members of the organization expressing concern for player safety. In an effort to deliver on the mission of USA Rugby, putting the game and its members first, this evaluation was set in place with USA Rugby requesting World Rugby assess the review procedure. USA Rugby forwarded all materials including the final report from an ad hoc committee, the required medical analysis and timeline of communications - to World Rugby for assessment. In the interest of transparency, USA Rugby finds it necessary to list the full scope of events since Mr. Paylor's injury.

The week following the incident on May 6th, USA Rugby initiated protocols for communication, insurance, and a medical review to analyze the mechanism of the injury. In the interest of disciplinary evaluation, host event The Varsity Cup was without a Judicial Committee, therefore the incident was not submitted to World Rugby within the mandatory 72-hour window. However, this disciplinary requirement did not impede the formation of the medical review committee or other protocols.

Shortly thereafter, USA Rugby requested an ad hoc committee convene to review the sequence of events leading up to the injury, in order to provide the organization with a basis for strengthening the education of the rugby community on best practices aimed at preventing reoccurrence.

The ad hoc committee organized in early June to begin compiling a report. The committee's report was not intended to assign fault, express opinions, or suggest disciplinary actions. Over the following weeks, the committee continued to meet and communicate on a regular basis.

The ad hoc committee's report, which laid out in detail the sequence of events, suggested that among a number of contributing factors, a reckless play was involved. Based on the findings of the report and given the absence of a tournament Judicial Committee, USA Rugby conducted a separate analysis and determined disciplinary examination was in order.

The commencement of a disciplinary review was set in place after procedural consideration of jurisdiction for this particular match. All discipline authority defaults to the local disciplinary committee, in this case being the PAC Collegiate Conference. By agreement, The PAC Collegiate Conference deferred to D1A who declined the referral, at which point USA Rugby referred the review to an independent World Rugby Certified Citing Commissioner to assess the need for disciplinary action. With the delay in time due to necessary process, certain elements of a Citing Report were not available to the citing commissioner. However, this did not interfere with the customary review of circumstances that were to be assessed by the Citing Commissioner.

While resolution was understandably sought by all parties involved, it was important to perform the review in a delicate and concentrated manner. With the incident being catastrophic, a rush to cite would have potentially been prejudicial to both the opposing players and Mr. Paylor. As stated and pursuant to USA Rugby Procedures and World Rugby Regulations, disciplinary review is required within 72 hours of the match in which the incident occurred. However, by World Rugby regulation, time extensions are granted to judicial review in certain cases.

Once the aforementioned timeline had run its course, the disciplinary review was able to begin in early September, when an independent World Rugby Certified Citing Commissioner reviewed the incident with all available video and photo evidence verifiably accessible. After a focused deliberation, the commissioner's report determined the play did in fact involve a reckless play as the opposing player's arm is in contact with Paylor's neck. However, Robert's "ability to maintain a body position that had the neck in line with the shoulders, does not appear to [involve] large force applied to contact with the neck." Therefore, by the guidelines of World Rugby, "the offense does not rise to the level of a red card."

In addition to the ad hoc committee assembly, following customary procedure, a medical review conducted by an independent medical committee specializing in rugby injuries was introduced to address the mechanism of the injury. USA Rugby looked for the medical panel to provide recommendations in reducing risk of similar circumstances.

The medical committee concluded their report with the following endorsements,

• Report of incident to World Rugby for both research and law review.
• Education to USA Rugby membership regarding safe play regarding tackle, ruck, maul, scrum
and zero tolerance for foul play.
• Education to referees regarding stoppage of play during serious and potentially catastrophic
injury to allow emergency medical care and avoid additional risk to player(s) and medical staff.
• Recommendation of World Rugby's ICIR (Immediate Care in Rugby) training for all medical staff
working in rugby.

In response to the counsel offered by the medical committee, USA Rugby continues to advocate for interactive curriculum focused on play progression and safety when entering a ruck or maul. USA Rugby has since initiated an educational video series allowing players and coaches to see proper play in a frame by frame model. These videos have been created and distributed via the USA Rugby social media channels with the intention being fully accessible and sharable content.

Updated training and education materials on all levels and age groups have been implemented, along with proper instruction on executing disciplinary review via a thorough and committed manner.

Easily distributed referee curriculum has been updated with actual game play examples. These assets look to assure all competitions, tournaments and matches operated or sanctioned by USA Rugby have a proper referee instruction, on the field and in real time.

In retrospect, given the severity of the injury and the obligation USA Rugby has to its members and player welfare, the review was requested of World Rugby to offer a secondary assessment of the process executed by the NGB. Upon review, World Rugby confirmed the course of action was appropriate. USA Rugby understands the significance in cultivating a safe sport beyond expectation, and hopes the review and thorough procedures in place can continue to protect its members.

Ultimately, the injury to Mr. Paylor was devastating and USA Rugby's full intent is to support Robert in all ways possible, first of which being commitment to a safe and secure game. The ad hoc committee and educational materials are only a small percentage of the overall effort, as USA Rugby encourages all members of the American rugby community to play what part they can, in protecting the game.

Donations to Robert's recovery can still be made via a GoFundMe account.