Trinity scientists have developed a list of recommendations aimed at reducing the risk of head injuries and concussions in rugby.
The new study, by Dr Ciaran Simms and PhD researcher Gregory Tierney of the School of Engineering and the Centre for Bioengineering, looked at the type of tackles that are most likely to lead to a “head injury assessment”. They found that tackles to the upper trunk or the chest and shoulders as well as to the upper legs were more likely to lead to such assessments than tackles to the lower trunk, which is roughly the region around the pelvis.
Tackles to the upper trunk created head motion in the tackled player similar to that seen in concussion injuries. Tackles to the lower or mid-body trunk could decrease this effect by approximately 50 percent.
They also discovered that tacklers are more likely to receive a head injury assessment compared to ball carriers.
In response to the findings, the pair have recommended that tacklers aim for the lower trunk of the body when tackling. They have also recommended that the tackler should keep their head up and not look at the ground, take short, quick steps before the tackle, should not plant their feet and should make sure their head is on the correct side of the ball carrier when tackling.
In a press statement, Simms said: “Our findings have helped us better understand the mechanisms of head impacts in rugby union and resulted in these recommendations, which we hope may guide prevention strategies and reduce head injury assessment risks for athletes.”
In a press statement, Tierney added: “The findings from this project provide an evidence base, at the elite level, for coaches to develop and implement technical-based concussion prevention strategies for players.”
These findings come at a time when head injuries in sport are being increasingly scrutinised. In recent years Trinity has been at the centre of the conversation about head injuries in sport.
In early 2017, College hosted a conference to discuss concussion with Second Captains host Eoin McDevitt, Tipperary hurler Séamus Callanan and former Irish international rugby player Keith Woods in attendance.
In an interview with The University Times last year, Trinity’s Dr Matthew Campbell discussed his research, which examined a youth rugby team, in an attempt to predict if someone is likely to develop a long term condition linked to concussion.
In June 2017, Trinity researchers expanded their work looking at recovery from concussion in conjunction with Leinster Rugby. They teamed up with an American group called Concussions Assessment, Research and Education consortium to improve their research. The aim of the project was to find a simple way to confirm if a player had concussion.