CAPTAIN Gerrit-Jan van Velze is delighted to witness a change in attitude towards concussion after seeing his team-mates and opponents “accept” they have a head injury.

The Worcester Warriors star said players were previously “perceived as soft” for leaving the field to get checked out following a blow to the head.

But van Velze reckoned head injury assessments (HIAs) were no longer viewed as an examination of players’ toughness.

The experienced number eight knows only too well the risks attached to rugby having spent a year on the sidelines due to concussion.

Since returning to action ahead of the 2017-18 campaign van Velze has been impressed by the work done by Premiership Rugby around head injuries.

“We have taken a massive step in the right direction when it comes to managing concussion,” van Velze said.

“We have a lot more knowledge as they have done great work in upskilling staff and players around concussion.

“I have never seen as many players identify other players when they notice something is wrong.

“I know the risks in rugby. What we do is not normal.

“If you want a normal life then don’t play Premiership rugby as the game gets quicker and faster with big people involved. The collisions are getting bigger.”

According to the latest audit published in January concussion remained the most commonly reported injury in matches in the 2017-18 season with 140.

“Precaution is what we have to take control of and it’s nice that HIAs give players the opportunity,” van Velze said.

“It’s not a case anymore where it is a ‘tough test’.

“If you went off you were perceived as soft. That impression has gone from players.

“They don’t mind going through the tests and they accept whether they have passed or failed.

“We all want to play every single minute but sometimes it is our bodies way of saying ‘Hold on, let’s put things into perspective’.

“It’s difficult for me to identify anything that I would change now.

“I think the Premiership has done really well with concussion.”

After his 12-month recovery from concussion van Velze has not looked back, making 42 appearances in the past two seasons.

“I am completely over it,” said the 31-year-old who has retained the captaincy for the 2019-20 season.

“I have not had any symptoms like I had in that 12-month period.

“I don’t think about it anymore.

“But I will be honest with you, it took me the better part of six months to get over it.

“Every time we were about to kick off (in the 2017-18 season) until Christmas it was like I had to pinch myself and say ‘Here we go again’.

“I wasn’t scared but I had to realise that it could be the end because I have a history of getting one concussion a season.

“When you talk to these Red Bull motorcycle jumpers they know injuries are going to come.

“It’s just a matter of time so it’s about dealing with them. I would not wish it upon my worst enemy to go through the same thing I went through but it has put life and rugby into perspective.

“I love rugby and am extremely passionate about it but it is not the be-all and end-all of life.

“There’s life post rugby so you have to find a balance.

“We are extremely fortunate to play this game. We get paid, work 18 or 19 hours a week and play in front of crowds like at Sixways on the weekend.

“I can be grateful in hindsight of what I went through because I think I am a better person for it now. It’s just sad that I had to learn it through that injury when I should have learnt it from other players.”

Van Velze was speaking at Gallagher’s Train with Your Heroes event at Sixways where Wolverhampton Rugby Club’s under 12s won the chance to train with Warriors players.