Rugby has the highest incidence of concussion in contact sport with 15.8 concussions per 1000 player hours. New research shows that headguards may be able to help reduce this number.
We’ve featured several different Rugby related stories over the past couple of years with the focus being brain related. Earlier this year we featured a systematic review which demonstrated that Rugby players suffer more concussions than their American Football counterparts and subsequently concerns over long-term cognitive abilities exist. Although the findings of the systematic review are not alarming there were limitations in the current literature which means we don’t know the full picture. The common-sensical thought is that the more hits to the head you get, the higher your risk of brain injury in the long term but we don’t have rugby related evidence to confirm this.
More evidence is needed to assess the true long term impact of the game on neurological abilities. What we do know is the impact of concussion in the short-term and this is a serious concern for players, particularly youth players. More and more is being done to reduce the impact of concussion on players and this can only be a good thing. Examples include the research performed at Bath University, a new pioneering exercise programme which has achieved staggering results including a 72% & 59% reduction in concussion and injury rates respectively.
As shown by this study exercise is an effective tool to reduce concussion risk and is effective because of increased to tackle technique, increased agility and readiness of players going into games. What exercise cannot do is soften the blow a players head receives when hit during a tackle and this is why forward players wear headguards.
A new study published in the BMJ entitled “Comparison of branded rugby headguards on their effectiveness in reducing impact on the head” shows just how beneficial they can be. It should be emphasised that not all headguards are created equally and will not prevent all concussions but they will reduce the incidence. It is also worth recognising that most concussions are due to rotational acceleration so headgear won’t protect against this force, what they will do is decrease the risk of skull fracture and severe traumatic brain injury.
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