Southern California Youth Rugby (SCYR) is leading the way for player safety with the introduction of a new “Player Welfare Program.” The unique program was designed by Alexandra Williams, executive director of SCYR, to prioritize the health and wellness of rugby athletes.

SCYR is the governing body in charge of over 5000 players in Southern California. SCYR works with over 100 clubs and high school programs to grow the game and promote rugby.

The new Player Welfare Program features several key improvements that help prevent and treat concussions and other major injuries. Notably, athletic trainers are scheduled for every contact rugby match and a comprehensive concussion protocol is in place. Trainers and coaches can notify SCYR about possible concussions through InjureFree, an online portal. InjureFree prevents players with suspected or diagnosed concussions from being placed on match rosters until they have been cleared by a physician or complete the full concussion protocol.

Wyatt Blue, the Player Welfare Manager and experienced athletic trainer, follows up directly with parents on suspected concussions and serious injuries. Blue thinks the program is a great way to educate parents, and explained “when they hear about it they are very excited about what we are doing, because it’s all about the safety of their athletes.”

Alexandra Williams describes the program as “unique and groundbreaking in a lot of ways.” She notes that the response to the program has been largely positive and says, “the time is right for it, and people are very supportive of it.”

The Player Welfare Program is only entering its second season, but has already garnered national attention. SCYR was named the Organization of the Year by the National Council for Youth Sports, and won the NCYS STRIVE Award. USA Rugby, the national governing body for rugby, provided a grant to help kick-start the program. Additional funding is provided by sponsor groups, including Brock USA.

SCYR said the partnership with Brock “provides critical support to the implementation of the PWP and greatly benefits our athletes, much as Brock’s products provide critical safety features for artificial turf fields, which are increasingly being implemented by schools and parks and used by youth sports teams across Southern California.”

Williams is hopeful for the future of the program, and wants “all of youth rugby to be working at these same levels.” In the next few years, SCYR is looking to increase the capabilities of the program and develop new ways to support athletes. Possible expansions involve using the rugby injury data collected with InjureFree to create new training resources for coaches.

Southern California Youth Rugby’s Player Welfare Program will help protect players, and inform coaches and parents when possible concussions and serious injuries have occurred. The strategies used by SCYR are being shared with youth organizations around the country to promote safer sports.