ER24 and Mediclinic were recently recognised for the world-leading medical care they bring to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

“This is not a contact sport. Not anymore. This is now a collision sport.”

This is an important distinction, explains Clint Readhead, medical manager at SA Rugby. As the game has evolved, rugby players can expect to take bigger hits than ever, and the chance of serious injury rises with each tackle.

This evolution makes fieldside medical assistance more important than ever. And a new report shows Mediclinic and ER24 are leading the way in providing expert emergency medical care for players during the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

“If you are talking about rugby tournaments on a global scale, you are talking about elite athletes,” explains Dr Darren Green, chief medical officer of Mediclinic’s team of sports events-specific doctors, nurses and medics. “These aren’t weekend warriors. These are players who are investing time and energy in a high-profile career.”

Sevens rugby is no different. In fact, explains Readhead, the challenges are magnified. “There are seven players competing on a field designed for 15. That means there is a lot more space. And in space, players really build up a head of steam – travelling at that pace, the collisions are harder, at a higher impact.”

For the first time, the 2019 HSBC Cape Town Sevens tournament featured a women’s event, and stretched over three days. A recent report confirms it: the medical support Mediclinic provides at events of this calibre is world-class.

Compiled by World Rugby and based on feedback from players in all 16 of the men’s representative teams, the report compared all 10 of the tournaments on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2018/19 calendar. The events were evaluated according to several criteria, including training facilities, anti-doping measures and medical support.

Cape Town achieved the highest overall weighted score on the circuit and led the series in seven of nine categories. The event’s weighted score of 91.4% was also the highest achieved since this score-based reporting system began in 2014/15.

Cape Town’s 92.1% overall score was the highest recorded for any tournament – and the tournament scored an outstanding 94.5% in the medical support category.

This recognition is due at least in part to Mediclinic’s approach of putting the players first. “The role we play in sevens rugby is regulatory,” explains Dr Green. “We are here to ensure players are taken care of according to the latest and strictest player-safety protocols. These are guidelines in international best practice, determined by World Rugby, and adhered to by SA Rugby, and we make sure the players benefit from a high degree of efficiency and clinical accuracy.”

Mediclinic’s team of events-specific medical assistance experts brought a streamlined field hospital to the event, including a fully equipped intensive care unit and radiology facilities. Three emergency doctors and four trained nurses were joined by a team of ER24 paramedics stationed on a golf cart, ready to take to the field and remove players for assessment and treatment when necessary.

Inside the stadium hospital area, players can be assessed for signs of concussion and other head injuries, while a dedicated team of SA Rugby experts closely monitor a series of TV screens for injuries as they occur in real time. A team of doctors from Winelands Radiology, equipped by Africa X-Ray Industrial and Medical, were on standby to examine players for broken and fractured bones, as well as soft tissue damage.

“The on-site radiology service at the Cape Town 7s is unique,” says Dr Richard de Villiers, chief radiologist at Winelands Radiology. “Sevens is such a fast-paced sport, with such little time between games and tournaments, that when a player gets injured, we need X-ray and ultrasound images within minutes or hours, not days. Here we can assess them for breaks and fractures, or muscle or ligament damage, extremely quickly.”

“We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Mediclinic and ER24 – they’ve been integral to our operations at the HSBC Cape Town 7s,” says Readhead. “The Mediclinic events team is a specialised group of professionals who understand and are well-trained to take care of the needs of elite athletes. We’ve always been more than happy with their work, and we are proud to work alongside them at such a world-class event.”