New Zealand rugby joins NFL-funded concussion study

HAMILTON, New Zealand -- New Zealand's Super Rugby teams and players are participating in a concussion-related study funded by the NFL.

The study -- costing $2.6 million (AUS$ 3.41m, £2.03m) and directed by the University of North Carolina and the Medical College of Wisconsin -- is looking into a new, multi-dimensional concussion recovery programme.

Rugby players currently undertake a six-day return-to-play protocol, guiding them back to the field after suffering a head knock. If a player has any concussion-related symptoms throughout the process, then they return to the start until they are symptom-free.

The new study will see players undertake tests on balance and visual disturbance 48 hours after suffering the head knock.

"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," said NZR medical director Dr Ian Murphy.

"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."

The 180 Super Rugby players will be involved in the study alongside athletes from the Canadian Football League and athletes from American and Canadian colleges, universities and high schools.

The research will also take in athletes from football, rugby, soccer, lacrosse, basketball and ice hockey.