Lifestyle / Research

Concussions in Rugby

By Youlendree Appasamy & Siphokazi Zama

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The growing incidents of concussions in school rugby have prompted South African Women in Science Award-winner (WISA) Shameemah Abrahams, and her team of researchers to look into the predisposing factors of concussion in adolescent rugby. Her lecture on the subject took place on Sunday, the 16th of March 2014 at the Olive Schreiner Hall as part of the ongoing Science Festival. According to Abrahams, a concussion can be defined as “a brain injury due to a head knock with balance, memory and or speech problems.” Rugby has been identified as the leading sport in terms of concussion rates.  Between 2002 and 2010, there were six deaths related to severe brain injury in schoolboy rugby. Up to 50% of all high school rugby players would have suffered a concussion in their high school playing careers. “The frequency is less in youth players but when concussion does occur, it is more severe,” Abrahams said.

The purpose for the study about the predisposing factors of concussion in adolescent rugby is that concussions generally cause more damage in younger players when compared to professional players. However, there are certain factors that make some players more vulnerable to concussions than others. These would be things such as previous head injury, playing positions (hookers get concussed more often), genetics, player behaviour and fitness.

As their study progresses, Abrahams and her team will be able to firstly reveal high risk and low risk factors which genetically predispose rugby players to concussion. Secondly, they will be able to come up with a quick test that coaches will be able to do on the sidelines because as it stands there is no standardised test that can be done.

If a player is suspected of having a head injury, it is advised the he be substituted from the game and closely observed for the coming days. The danger with concussions is that not all players exhibit the same symptoms but also, the symptoms of a concussion may only show up four days after the game. It should also be noted that wearing protective headgear will not fully protect the players from getting a concussion, but it is advised that they continue wearing them.

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