Education, not helmets, stops rugby concussions: Study

November 4th, 2010 - 6:31 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Nov 4 (ANI): A new review has suggested that mouth guards and headgear have little or no impact on reducing concussions in rugby players.

However, educational programmes that promote proper playing techniques and enforcement of rules do result in a significant reduction in concussions and head, neck and spinal injuries, Dr Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said.

“Our study was the first to summarize what did and what did not work. Equipment such as headgear and mouth guards are ineffective at preventing neurological injuries, but other strategies, such as education and rule changes, have been shown to be effective. These sorts of strategies should be made available to all rugby players so that these athletes can spend more time playing on the field than recovering off of the field,” Cusimano said.

He urged equipment companies to develop more sophisticated headgear to further reduce injury risk

The current rugby headgear is soft-shelled, has thin padding and is mainly designed to protect the ears and the back of the head.

Concussion is the third most common match injury, accounting for 62 percent of match head injuries.

Professional rugby players suffer 91 injuries per 1,000 player hours, with each injury requiring an average of 18 days to recover and return to play.

Spinal injuries account for 9 percent of time lost to match injuries by professional English players, occurring at a rate of up to 10.9 per 1,000 player hours.

Cusimano said the number of concussions might be underreported because of the International Rugby Board rule that athletes can’t return to play for three weeks after suffering a concussion unless cleared by a neurologist.

“A large number of players, coaches and referees believe that equipment such as mouth guards and headgears may prevent brain injuries in rugby,” he said.

The New Zealand Rugby Union and the country’s Accident Compensation Corp. developed a 10-point RugbySmart injury prevention program in 2001 that has resulted in a 13 percent decrease in neck, back and spine injuries and a reduction in the mean number of days between an injury and a player seeking treatment (4.27 days, down from six).

Cusimano’s findings are published in the November issue of the journal Neurosurgery. (ANI)

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