Rugby Players Get Concussions Too

APRIL 22, 2015
Gale Scott
With all the focus on the hazards of concussion brain injury in professional US football, Australian researchers decided it was time to take a look at the risks in Rugby.

The game is played without helmets, but players are trained not to use their heads as a weapon in making tackles.

The reasoning in sports training has been that it is helmets themselves that lead US football players to do things that get them injured—thinking the helmets will protect them more than they do.  Some experts have argued that if US football were played without helmets, there would be fewer concussions.

But in a study presented April 23 at the 2015 American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in Washington, DC, Andrew Gardner, MD, of Calvary Mater Hospital in Waratah, Australia and colleagues documented rugby concussions on video, then analyzed them.

“Concussions in the National Rugby League are common,” the team wrote. They looked at incidents in the 2013 NLR season. There were 14.8 concussions per 1,000 NRL match hours, or about 1 concussion every 4 games.

Most injuries (83%) occurred during a high tackle and all injured ball carriers were hit high. None of the striking players was injured. In about 30% of cases, players lost consciousness.

“Common observable signs of injury included clutching of the head, balance problems, or wobbly legs, and a blank or vacant state,” the team reported.

Only half of the players who had concussions were removed from play, though most returned with a week. The tapes showed one who played again in the same match, they found.

“Future studies may include larger numbers to validate this preliminary data and may also investigate other levels of play and age ranges,” the researchers concluded.

The research was supported by the New South Wales Sporting Injuries Committee and Brain Injury Australia.

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