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Call for mandatory headgear in rugby

Tuesday November 13th, 2018

Headguards should be mandatory in rugby at all levels of the game, a new study out today has concluded.

According to the study by the University of Dundee's Institute of Motion Analysis & Research (IMAR), Scotland, UK, wearing protective headgear can almost reduce the force transferred to a player's head during an impact by 47%.

The findings, published in the latest edition of The BMJ, found that even the least effective device that was tested could make a significant difference in preventing head injuries.

Professor Rami Abboud, director of IMAR, said that the study made "a compelling case" for both amateur and professional players to use headgear.

He said that while there was no need to introduce headgear as extensive as that of American footballers, there is a need for a common-sense approach.

"The issue of head injuries in rugby, such as concussion, has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, with players often exposed to extreme forces, particularly at the professional level of the game." he said.

"You cannot avoid injuries in contact sport and we are not saying that headgear would eradicate head injuries - but this research has shown just how significant a difference these products can make in helping to minimise the risk that rugby players face on the field."

The trial looked at seven mid-priced products, costing between £24.99 and £42, with each exposed to drop tests that produced forces of more than 103 g, the closest acceleration to the upper limit of the proposed concussion threshold of 100 g.

Study lead author Erin Frizzell, a final year medical student, said: "Across the range the effectiveness was greater than I thought it would be, though the difference of 20% protection between the best and worst performing was also an eye-opener.

The regulations set by World Rugby on headgear are very strict. They can't be over a certain thickness, the materials they are made of have to be under a certain density, and they are marketed as a means of preventing scrapes and abrasions, not concussion.

"While the best performing device that we tested was 47% effective, it would be interesting to see if we could improve protection levels further if these rules were relaxed."

Frizzell E, Arnold G, Wang W et al. Comparison of branded rugby headguards on their effectiveness in reducing impact on the head. BMJ 13 November 2018

http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2018-000361

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Fitness | UK News

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