Rugby World Cup 2015: tackling the issue of concussion

Written by Alice Weatherston

With the commencement of the 2015 Rugby World Cup this week, the issue of mild traumatic brain injuries within contact sport has been discussed widely across the media, indicating the need for better understanding and monitoring of the effects of concussion.
A BBC Panorama documentary on Monday investigated calls to alter tackle laws within the game to reduce the risk of head traumas and yesterday Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, responded positively to calls to implement something similar to the USA’s Lystedt’s Law to improve concussion education further.

Lystedt’s law requires youth athletes who are suspected of having sustained a concussion to seek medical clearance before returning to play. It also enforces increased awareness and education over the risks of concussion for athletes, coaches and parents/guardians and has now been implemented in 49 of the 50 US states.

Over the last few years, post-mortem brain biopsies of ex-sportsmen involved in both american football and rugby have shown evidence of abnormal pathology and degeneration, leading many to question the long-term effects of repetitive head impacts. Now the world’s focus on such a significant sporting event has provided an opportunity to bring the increasingly apparent issue of head trauma in sport to light again and to explore the ongoing studies and needs for research within this area.

The field of detection is rapidly emerging as an exciting area for research in concussion. State-of-the-art wearable technologies, such as color-reactive scrum caps to indicate impact levels and impact-sensing skin patches are just a couple of examples.

Research is also focused on new techniques to enable fast identification and diagnosis of concussion, including eye-tracking techniques and validation of reliable biomarkers.

To highlight some of this research we’ve handpicked some great articles from our open access partner journal Concussion below – you can also read about a new concussion study taking place as part of a partnership between UCL, Saracens Rugby Club and The Drake Foundation here .

The King-Devick test of rapid number naming for concussion detection: meta-analysis and systematic review of the literature

Vision encompasses a large component of the brain’s pathways, yet is not represented in current sideline testing. This article presents a  meta-analysis of published data for a vision-based test of rapid number naming, the King-Devick test.

Sensitivity and specificity of an eye movement tracking-based biomarker for concussion

This study investigates the sensitivity and specificity of an eye tracking method and support for it’s use as a biomarker of concussion.

Returning the student to school after concussion: what do clinicians need to know?

The decision to return a child to school following mild traumatic brain injury is reliant on a pragmatic observation of the benefits of progressing a child’s academic and social development weighed against the potential problems associated with postconcussion symptoms. This article reviews current recommendations for a child’s return.