New Zealand rugby concussion study sparks global research

Growing concerns over rugby head injuries have led to New Zealand research being taken to the next level.

Growing concerns over rugby head injuries have led to New Zealand research being taken to the next level.

Ground-breaking New Zealand research into the long-term effects of concussion on retired rugby players is being taken to a global level.

The Auckland University of Technology (AUT) study will be part of a Global Rugby Health Research Programme, linking with studies in the UK, Canada and Australia.

The New Zealand study, backed by New Zealand Rugby and World Rugby, found that participants from the two rugby groups involved had sustained substantially more concussions than the non-contact sport group - 85 per cent of elite rugby players and 77 per cent of community rugby players reported having had at least one concussion, versus 23 per cent of non-contact sport players.

In assessing the neuropsychological health impact of rugby, it was found that players who experienced one or more concussions during their career experienced some cognitive limitations in comparison to players with no history of concussion.

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Professor Patria Hume who led the AUT research is delighted to see the programme taken to an international level.

"This is a significant development for sport research. Taking the NZ Rugby Health Project to an international level will address the growing public interest in the long-term health outcomes of playing rugby," Hume said.

"We would like to know if the health outcomes found in New Zealand retired rugby players are also evident in other countries."

Hume will help direct the international study.

The collaboration involves researchers from AUT University (NZ), Leeds Beckett University (UK), the University of Aberdeen (UK), the University of Regina (Canada), the University of Victoria (Canada), HeadSafe (Australia), the University of Sydney (Australia), La Trobe University (Australia) and the University of Western Australia.

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"In addition to applying the New Zealand project to their location, each country's research team is also adding to the core general health and neurological health studies. This will allow us to gain important additional information – in particular on physiological biomarkers, brain health and bone health," Hume said.

While all the countries' studies focus on rugby players, the Australian study is unique in its inclusion of athletes from Australian Rules Football, soccer, and equestrian, while the Canadian study includes retired ice hockey and American Football players. This will provide cross-sport analysis of the long-term effects of participation.

"This is the ideal opportunity to add past players from our part of the world to this landmark international research programme," Dr Adrian Cohen, who has headed Australian studies, said.

"The long term effects of participation in sport need to be understood and acknowledged in order that we can care for players today and into the future. Sport has so many positive benefits … let's increase our understanding to give participants and their families confidence that we are looking after them throughout their careers and after they stop playing".

 - Stuff

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