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Concussions will be a huge part of the conversation when USA Rugby hosts a Medical Symposium at the USA 7s in Las Vegas next week.

The Symposium itself won’t concentrate only on rugby, but is supposed to be a sports health symposium covering a wide range of topics, but, said USA Rugby Director of Medical Services Michael Keating, “concussion is the most important thing.”

Concussions in all sports, said Keating, is finally becoming a serious issue.

“We have brought in world experts to talk about it,” said Keating.

Among them, Bob Cantu, MD, who notably was quoted as a critic of the IRB’s in-game concussion evaluation procedures.

Cantu, Clinical Professor Department of Neurosurgery and Co-Director Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, Boston University School of Medicine, is an advisor to the NFL on concussions who has posited that maybe the sport should get rid of helmets. He has backed off his criticism of the IRB’s protocols, but remains one of the authorities, and strong voices, on concussions.

In addition, the symposium will include Dr. Ann McKee, an expert on Chronic traumatic encephalopathy,  a degenerative disease caused by repeated, often supposedly minor, brain trauma.

“Day two is loaded with an all-star list of presenters,” Keating said. “If you are dealing with athletes and the potential for concussion and emergency care – regardless of your knowledge level or participation in rugby – this symposium is for you.”

Keating wants rugby in America to help take the lead in talking about these difficult subjects. And concussion is certainly a difficult subject. In December, The Guardian in England called concussion rugby’s dirty little secret. In 2010, the BBC ran a story on how player honesty is one of the stumbling blocks to treatment. Players, simply put, might hide a concussion that’s not obvious to most observers in order to play in the next game. A survey by the Welsh Rugby Union of 75 lower-division players found that only 20% reported concussion incidents.

Keating wants the sport of rugby to face up to these issues, and hopes then that players and coaches will follow suit.

“USA Rugby is leading the way in the education, prevention, treatment and management of concussions,” said Keating said. “Our fifth annual Sports Medicine Symposium will have an unprecedented panel presenting on the subject. With a priority of keeping rugby and all sports safer, we have secured the world’s experts in concussion and sports medicine to present. Our conference has always kicked off with a focus on concussion on the first day and we continue to make this a priority.”

For more on the speakers and agenda of next week's symposium, click here.