A former Chiefs and Hawke's Bay rugby player who suffered about 20 documented concussions has admitted he hid concussions earlier in his career.
First five-eighth Dan Waenga shared his experiences with St John's College students in Hastings who were warned of the dangers of concussions during the presentation days after baseline examinations.
The college's 1st XV rugby team was baseline tested last week ahead of the delayed season, forming part of New Zealand Rugby's trial across Hawke's Bay schools.
The trial, which is currently run in 65 clubs and schools in Hawke's Bay, North Harbour and Otago, is an app that helps players, coaches, staff and family stay up to date if a player suffers a concussion.
A 2017 NZR survey revealed that 70 per cent of players amongst schools first XV teams said they wouldn't tell anyone if they thought they were concussed.
Waenga, who retired from the sport due to the concussions, said he regrets not taking proactive steps when sufferings the knocks.
"Unfortunately, I was one of those 70 per cent that tried to hide my concussions," he said.
"My one regret is not looking after myself properly in terms of concussions, as I could potentially still be playing today if I had gone through these processes."
The former New Zealand Under-21 suffered his first concussion at the age of 15 and his final, career ending knock in 2015.
"If I can connect to just one of these kids and it makes their decision easier to exit the field and get checked, then that's a job well done for me," he said.
A recent Canadian university study has found that playing rugby can cause subtle brain damage in young people after just three matches.
The study found that changes occurred in the white and grey matter of the brain that regulates fear, anger and pleasure, following knocks to the head.
New Zealand Rugby research analyst Danielle Salmon said the trial, which began in 2018 with the support of Brain Injury HB, said males in their teens suffer concussions more frequently than most.
"We know that if you are to get concussed as a 15-year-old compared to in your 30s, the concussion won't last as long in the latter," she said.
"During the teenage years, your brain is going through a lot of changes and when you get concussed at that age, it takes a while for your brain to recover."
The bespoke concussion management app, designed by CSx, allows team managers and coach to communicate via email to parents, schools and provincial unions that the player has been removed for a suspected concussion and referred into a GP.
Salmon added: "With players, we often see a hesitancy to report concussion symptoms, so with the education sessions we run in the schools, we focus on empowering them to recognise the symptoms in their team mates and feel comfortable getting that player off the field or letting someone else know."
Waenga added: "The biggest thing to remember is that a concussion is something nobody else can see but you."