The UK RugbyHealth project, led by Leeds Beckett University and launched in September 2016, is currently examining bone, joint, cardiometabolic and neurological health in former players. The team has announced that the study, undertaken alongside researchers from the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and the University of Aberdeen, is also being launched in Canada this month.
Professor Patrick Neary of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina and Dr Steve Martin (MD) from the University of Victoria will be expanding the project’s general health and neurocognitive testing to Canadian retired rugby players and retired non-contact athletes. The international collaboration will also bring a UK-Canada neurovascular sub study on prefrontal cortex brain oxygenation and cerebral hemodynamics in former players with a history of 3 or more concussions and retired non-contact athletes with no concussion history.
Dr Karen Hind, Senior Research Fellow in the Carnegie School of Sport at Leeds Beckett, said: “We are delighted to announce that this important research has been extended to Canada and are really excited to tap into the expertise of Professor Neary and Dr Martin. The new sub study will be the first to explore cerebral oxygenation in relation to concussion history in retired athletes and will be conducted both here in the UK and in Canada.”
Professor Neary said: “Our Concussion Testing Laboratory has been assessing players with concussions for over 10 years using technology called near infrared spectroscopy, but this will be the first study to my knowledge to assess mental and neurological function in retired athletes with a history of concussion using this type of medical equipment. Such research could lead to novel rehabilitation methods. In addition to examining athletes in the Regina area, I am also fortunate to be working with colleagues at the University of Victoria, Victoria BC. In particular, Dr. Steve Martin and I will be assessing retired rugby players in the Victoria area, which is a haven for rugby in Canada.”
The New Zealand Rugby Health project (NZ RugbyHealth), funded by World Rugby, New Zealand Rugby, and Auckland University of Technology in 2012, and led by Professor Patria Hume, found that New Zealand former rugby players had more injuries resulting in hospitalisation, more concussions, more general health issues including cardiovascular and arthritis issues, hazardous alcohol drinking behaviour, lower scores on some neurocognitive tests, and altered cortical motor excitation and inhibition, than the non-contact sport comparison group. The neurocognitive part of the project, published recently in the Sports Medicine journal, showed that players who experienced one or more concussions during their career were less able to understand and process information quickly, to make rapid decisions, to switch attention between tasks and to track and respond to information over long periods of time.
To take part in the UK or Canadian project, retired players and retired non contact athletes are invited to sign up via the main project webpage at www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/ukrugbyhealth. There is one online neurocognitive (CNSVS) test and one general health questionnaire.
The clinical assessments (health MOT) are taking place at Leeds Beckett and include bone, joint and body composition evaluation by state-of-the-art dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), neuromuscular assessments and a cardiometabolic examination by blood test and electrocardiogram (ECG). The neurovascular sub study will take place at Leeds Beckett, the University of Regina Concussion Test Centre and the University of Victoria CARSA Injury Centre.
Details on how to take part can be found at www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/ukrugbyhealth.