NZRU teams up with NFL for new concussion study

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 19:07
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NEWS: The New Zealand Rugby Union announced that players from New Zealand's Super Rugby franchises will be participating in an American National Football League funded study on the role of new active rehabilitation strategies in concussion management. 

The US$2.6 million study, led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Medical College of Wisconsin, is one of the first of its kind in the world.

The study will look at how a multi-dimensional rehabilitation protocol, that includes balance and vision rehabilitation, can work alongside the current enhanced graded exertion protocol to improve recovery and outcomes after sport related concussion. 

Currently professional rugby players rest until they are symptom free and then undertake graduated physical activity till they can perform at full exertion with no symptoms. The new protocol being studied would start testing for balance and visual disturbance after 48 hours and would work in conjunction with the current system. 

"It's great to be working alongside the NFL and including our top players in this study. There are currently so many unknowns with concussion rehabilitation and world leading research like this is going to be critical to learning more and developing better systems for treating concussion.

"There's a lot more to learn about the most effective strategies to manage and treat concussion. Currently we wait for symptoms to disappear before we start rehabilitation and return to play. 

"In this study, concussed players will have their senses and balance challenged after only 48 hours, even if they are still experiencing concussion symptoms, and we will be testing to see if this enhanced treatment improves their recovery outcomes. 

"Concussion is a significant issue in our game, and the only way we can address it is through multi-sport collaboration on research projects like this. We won't get to the bottom of this problem on our own, so teaming up with organisations like the NFL who have resources and the University of North Carolina who have high-quality facilities is critical to advance this work," NZRU Medical Director Ian Murphy said.

The study will involve 180 players from the five Super Rugby franchises as well as professional athletes from the Canadian Football League and amateur athletes from American and Canadian colleges and universities and high schools. 

The research will cover a variety of sports, including American football, rugby, soccer, lacrosse, basketball and ice hockey. The three-year study will enroll more than 200 concussed athletes, both male and female.

"A major goal of the study is not only to find out what works best in terms of rehabilitative strategies for concussion, but to also determine the real-world application of these approaches and return-to-play strategies," Michael McCrea, the co-principal investigator at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said.

McCrea is director of the Brain Injury Research Program and a professor of neurosurgery and neurology.

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