Players all wired up to aid research

By Margot Taylor

Devices on rugby team will measure force on their heads for concussion study.
Dr Danielle Salmon and Otago flanker Adam Knight.
Dr Danielle Salmon and Otago flanker Adam Knight.

A ground-breaking study on concussion will help researchers get inside the heads of rugby players.

The entire Otago rugby team will wear electronic devices, about the size of a $2 coin, above their ear during their next five home games.

University of Otago research fellow Dr Danielle Salmon said the devices would measure the force put on players' heads during intense impact events such as tackles and rucks to assess whether neck strength influenced force put on the head.

Otago flanker Adam Knight said he had suffered three concussions in his career, most recently on Sunday when he left the first game of the season four minutes in on a stretcher.

"Any studies that are going to help us players and give any knowledge about concussion are good." Knight will not play in tonight's game against Wellington at Forsyth Barr Stadium because of the injury.

He said it was a shame he did not have the measuring device on when he received the knock.

Salmon, who is attached to Otago's School of Physical Education and Exercise Sciences, said research on the forces exerted on the heads of professional athletes had not been done in New Zealand before.

A similar study using measuring devices on American footballers found increased neck strength could reduce a players' chances of concussion, Salmon said.

Force measured by the devices would show up instantly on monitor screens used by the Otago South Island brain injury research group, led by Dr Hamish Osborne.

Otago rugby coach Cory Brown said the research was exciting if it "helps us get more of an idea on the players' condition and risk of concussion". The team took the injury seriously, he said.

He did not believe the devices would get in the way of play, but he wondered if adhesive tape would be enough to keep them in place during play.

New Zealand Rugby medical director Ian Murphy said the research could have implications on the prevention and detection of concussion in rugby, and had the potential to provide vital information.

The researchers will also measure the neurocognitive function of players before and after the season to see if there is a link between neurocognitive function and head impacts.

The Longest Goodbye: Read our story on rugby and dementia at tinyurl.com/nzhdementia

- NZ Herald

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