New blue card initiative to battle concussion already making impact in community rugby

While most rugby players and pundits are used to seeing yellow and red cards issued, a new coloured card is in the pocket of referees in this season.

In its first weekend, 73 senior matches in Christchurch saw three players issued the new card which sends players off with possible concussions. Source: 1 NEWS

The blue card concussion initiative has been rolled out across club rugby and it's already having an impact in Christchurch.

Under the new initiative, like a yellow or red card, the player carded must leave the field of play but rather than being a disciplinary issue, the card is to ensure the safety of the recipient.

Canterbury Rugby CEO Nathan Godfrey says the innovation isn't just for players.

"We are hoping to raise awareness not just for players but for supporters and administrators in the game to understand concussion is a serious issue and we need to confront that."

A blue-carded player must be substituted and won't be able to return until they have completed a series of mandatory tasks, including the possibility of a three week stand down from training and playing under the GRTP (graduated return to play) process.

The process will see under 19 players sit out for 23 days while over 19s getting a 21 day stand down.

A medical clearance is the final step in process.

"The right thing to do is to step off the ground – we are hoping trainers and coaches will support the referees in rolling out the blue card," Godfrey said.

The blue card was first introduced in 2014 in Northland and positive results have seen it extend throughout the country.

In its first weekend alone in Christchurch, out of the 73 senior matches played three players were issued the card.

Former NZ Maori and Japan player Adam Parker says older generations of players may take time to come on board but it's what's best for player safety.

"In the old days and when I was playing… it was a badge of honour to stay on with a head injury," he said.

"The head injuries isn't like a cut or broken bone. We've just got to take any contact out of the head, out of the game."