Rugby World Cup: An exemption to wear a carbon mask, the only solution for Dupont?

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XV of France The captain of the Blues will hardly be able to envisage a return for the competition without a protective mask, but the international regulations are ruthless Rugby World Cup: We asked the All Blacks questions about their stay in France — 20 Minutes

  • Antoine Dupont, operated on Friday evening for a fracture maxillo-zygomatic, begins a race against time to return to the field before the end of the World Cup.
  • The salvation of the captain of the XV of France could come through a carbon mask. But the difficulty lies as much in the possibility of producing the perfect mask for Dupont as in the World Rugby regulations, which prohibit rigid protections.

The “two, three days” which coach Laurent Labit was talking about on Friday morning, we will soon arrive at the stadium. their end, and France rugby is still in apnea. Victim of a maxillo-zygomatic fracture Thursday evening, Antoine Dupont suffered a severe injury. Barely 24 hours after an ossynthesis, i.e. the installation of two plates on the face to consolidate the affected bone, and the same speed at the same time. which was made the decision to operate that the optimistic message from the captain of the Blues spread throughout the world. in the process, have somewhat revived hope.

Even if the heart wants to believe in a miracle, it is important to remain lucid. The chances of seeing the best player in the world in 2021, the cornerstone of this generation with great designs, back on the field before the end of the competition are minimal. Despite emergency operation, the recovery time does not encourage further intervention. optimism. « A bone takes about six weeks to mature. consolidate. The zygomatic is not a very load-bearing bone, there is no force exerted on it, it is not the arm, the leg or the pelvis, it is a structural bone, a bumper, explains Chloé Bertolus, head of the maxillofacial surgery department at La Pitié Salpêtrière. But if he receives a shock, even a very slight one, during these first six weeks, the bone will move again because there is no solidity. ;»

Can a mask speed up his return?

It all depends, in reality, on the level of risk that the doctors, the player and the staff are ready to take. accept. In the balance, a World Cup the house with chances of victory on one side, health on one side of the player and the rest of his career on the other. “The real subject is the eye. The floor of the orbit is just behind this bone, it is a sort of egg shell, which can be fractured. à in turn by repercussion, warns Doctor Cédric Hardy, from the Aquitain Center for Maxillofacial Surgery. This can lead to problems with 3D vision, with what we call dystopias. We must therefore look closely at what is happening. long term, and think ahead his career. »

One element could help Dupont and Galthié in their choice: the possibility of or not to wear a mask. It would be there the ideal compromise, allowing it to play before the consolidation is completely effective. The Englishman Jeffrey Williams, who plays at Arcachon (Nationale 2), suffered essentially the same injury as Dupont last year. He remembers how it helped him. “The most important thing is the psychological impact,” he says. We feel protected. and it’s essential because this type of injury is very significant, we never really forget it. It’s the face, it’s very sensitive. »

Only two manufacturers in France

However, several problems arise. First of all, making the mask. Manuel Gavelle is one of only two manufacturers of this type of equipment in France (with the Berck-sur-Mer hospital center). For him, the fact that the divide concerns Both the maxilla and the zygomatic constitute a real challenge. “If’it had only been one or the other, no problem, we often do it. The two combined is very rare. You really have to see where “There is a divide to say whether we are able to do it or not,” he warns.

Because when we make a mask, we make it rest on the healthy bones that surround the damaged one. For a zygomatic for example, it will press on the opposite zygomatic, the forehead, the nose and the maxilla. Remove the latter and it’s stability. of the whole which is called into question. “If’there are not enough support points, the mask risks moving when the player takes a hit. “This will not protect him and will even risk injuring him,” says Manuel Gavelle. If the fracture is at the limit of the maxilla, it is playable, but if it is broken it transversally, there I don't think it's possible. »

Rugby World Cup: An exemption to wear a carbon mask, the only solution for Dupont?

The International Federation's regulation point on masks – World Rugby

For the material used, it would necessarily have to be something solid to be effective. In this case, carbon fiber. “In a case like this, it’s obligatory. You can hit it with a hammer, “it won’t break,” assures our manufacturer. But we come to the second problem, and not the least. World Rugby regulations do not, a priori, authorize the use of “any equipment containing rigid materials”. Security question for the player and his opponents, who could be injured in the process. his touch. “This means that devices such as masks, hearing aids, hearing aids and heart rate monitors worn on the chest cannot be worn during matches by any player  ;», it is thus written on the website of the International Federation.

A very likely veto from World Rugby

L’Equiperecalled on Friday the case of Imanol Harinordoquy, who in 2010 had planned to play an H-Cup match with a mask to protect his nose, but who had been forced to do so. prevented the day before by the match referee. The Biarritz staff then made him a mask. à at the last minute a sort of foam protection was not very sturdy and which also blocked his view. Unthinkable for the injury suffered by Antoine Dupont. The management of the French XV can always try to negotiate with World Rugby to find common ground, but it appears to be cottony to say the least.

Rugby World Cup: An exemption to wear a carbon mask, the only solution for Dupont?

Imano Harinordoquy and his makeshift mask during the 2010 European Cup. – JEAN-PIERRE MULLER

In the event of failure, a return appears very hypothetical. “In any case, it’s simple: either he wears a carbon mask and he can play, or he doesn’t have the right and he is out because the fracture is such that if he hurts “If you try it again, there can be serious after-effects,” says Manuel Gavelle, also a physio-osteopath specializing in medicine. in the maxillofacial area. A shared opinion by surgeons at who we spoke to.

Except that no one is in the shoes of the main person concerned. “Me, I came back six weeks after the operation. But we were not in a race against time. I think we can shorten this deadline to four or five weeks, estimates Jeffrey Williams. There are risks, you have to weigh the pros and cons, but it can still be playable for Antoine.» If we have to rely on the an Englishman to strike a note of optimism on a rugby subject, it is still that the situation is not far from being desperate.