A concussion study involving Randwick Rugby has revealed that’s exactly the kind of impact its first grade players experience during games, as researchers study the long-term effects, and ways to avoid head injuries.

After developing HeadSafe with other doctors experienced in dealing with head and neck injuries in the sporting arena, Dr Adrian Cohen knew exactly where he wanted to carry out his five-year research program.

“I started playing rugby in the under 7s at Randwick, so my first thought was to go back to my roots, and the Club board said immediately they wanted to get involved,” Dr Cohen said.

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“We requested and received official approval from World Rugby and the Australian Rugby Union and started baseline tests at the beginning of the season in 2015, using tiny impact sensors which sit behind the player’s ear to monitor who had large impacts with lots of G-Force and rotational force.

“The sensors allowed us to target players who had the big impacts and specifically retest them against their baseline cognitive and King Devick visual test readings.”

The results gathered over the past two years have shown a player will experience an average of 92 impacts per game, measuring from 20 up to a maximum 180 Gs each time.

“Muhammad Ali punched at 60 Gs and we have recorded three times that in individuals during normal play,” Dr Cohen said.

“A car hitting a brick wall at 30km/hr is 30 Gs — the key thing is to be able to quantify the impact to understand what each individual player is exposed to per game, and cumulatively over time.”

The study is also looking at rotational force — the twists and turns of the brain’s cells inside the skull, which may relate more closely with concussion effects.

“If you compare union with league and grid iron, on average the G-Force is around the same, about 22 to 24 Gs on average per impact,” Dr Cohen said.

“However, rotational forces in rugby are 20-30 per cent greater.”

Dr Cohen said the data being gathered was important to develop practices to protect players from the grassroots level right up to the elite in the event of an impact to the head by understanding the forces that each individual absorbs.

“The codes are interested in protecting younger players by understanding and managing risk and allowing informed choices.

“We don’t fully understand what the long-term impacts of concussion are, and we’re proud to be involved in a global past-player study as well with collaborators in the UK, New Zealand and North America to increase knowledge worldwide.

“On a basic level, we need the equivalent of an ECG for the brain, and that’s where our research is headed — testing the electrical wiring of the brain, not the current subjective tests of memory like the SCAT 3 test which don’t tell us what’s really going on.”

Randwick's Director Rugby Nick Ryan said the most important thing for the Club was managing player health and welfare.

“It takes the guess work out of it, and the data is quite clear — it gives us certainty and enables us to manage things accurately rather than making assumptions,” Mr Ryan said.

“The players feel like they’re a party to their own health and well being, it’s not just someone telling them something and them having to accept it at face value.

“The data is promoting conversation among the medical and coaching staff, and when the players become coaches or parents themselves they’ll have a deeper understanding of what’s healthy for the game.

Melissa Seiler, Southern Courier
May 2, 2017 12:01am

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