Leading doctor questions medical issues in starting up again

One of the leading doctors in Super League admits there will be huge challenges for Rugby League when it comes to implementing a safe medical protocol for resuming the season, although he insists the game cannot wait until there is no risk at all.

Rishi Dhand is a GP in West Yorkshire, as well as working as the club doctor for both Castleford Tigers and Leeds United. He offered an insight into how the sport can medically prepare when the season does restart to ensure the safety of all those involved, and he admits that, while it will be a challenge to restart the game, it is possible.

He told League Express: “As part of a medical team, we have to look at protocols for many things a lot more closely. What do players do when they come into the training ground? How do we advise the players on how they act away from games and training sessions, such as going out into shops and things like that, and how do we deal with illness?

“Sometimes, players wouldn’t even speak with the doctor about symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection (like COVID-19); now they will be assessed and managed with much more caution. If we think it’s COVID-related, they will have to be isolated and that brings huge challenges for a sporting club when so many people are in close contact. The RFL will have to provide some direction.”

Dr Dhand did admit, however, that the notion of waiting until the virus has been completely eradicated might be unwise.

He said: “It will be a challenge to get sport going again, but we have to think that potentially this virus could persist over a number of months. Is there ever going to be no risk?

“Maybe we need to plan to keep everyone safe with as little risk as possible. I don’t think there will be no risk for quite a while. The plans are being pieced together to start training in this country, but we will have to plan accordingly.”

Dr Dhand added that Rugby League may face separate challenges to other sports when it comes to the finances underlying the issue of medical safety.

“Is what’s possible in football possible in Super League?

“They’re working off different budgets so there’s a lot to consider but there’s been a bright spot from all of this – lots of doctors in the sports are setting up WhatsApp groups to exchange ideas and that’s been really useful.”