The severity of concussion in English rugby is at an all-time high, according to the latest figures published by their national governing body.
Data released by the Rugby Football Union for the 2018-19 season shows players were sidelined for an average of 22 days after suffering concussion during a match.
That figure is higher than at any point since statistics were first recorded in 2002, 10 days longer than the mean absence of 12 days per concussion.
A total of 407 games were included in the analysis, with 763 players from across 12 Premiership clubs giving consent for their data to be used.
Rugby's relationship with concussion has recently come under the microscope after six former players suffering from concussion-related health problems began legal action against the game.
According to the report, written by the England Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project Steering Group, 35% of players returned from concussion within seven days and 84% returned within 28 days, while 6% - 12 players - had not returned within 84 days.
Explaining the findings, the report reads: "The rise in average severity over recent years is attributable in part to the increase in this relatively small number of concussions lasting greater than 84 days.
"Other possible explanations include more conservative management of players diagnosed with concussion, more complex presentation requiring extended recovery periods, or individuals having extended stand-down periods following multiple concussions."
For the eighth consecutive season, concussion was the most commonly reported match injury, contributing 20% of all match injuries.
In 2018-19, there were 166 match concussions and 38 training concussions, with 21% of players sustaining at least one match concussion.
The burden of match concussion - which combines the frequency and severity of injuries - was 455 days per 1000 hours, the highest value recorded since the surveillance period began in 2002.
The incidence of match concussion was 20.4 per 25 games, which is close to the record figure of 20.9 reported in the 2016-17 campaign.
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