An accelerometer planted in rugby players’ mouthguards will help Lincoln University researchers learn more about head impact and concussion.
Players from Lincoln’s premier senior rugby team, known as the Rams, will also wear GPS sensors and have all of this season’s games filmed so researchers can monitor their on-field performance.
Sport Science Associate Professor Mike Hamlin, who is running the project, says accelerometers have been used in similar types of research before but with less sophisticated technology.
“For this study, we’re using a more advanced accelerometer with higher recording resolution.”
Associate Professor Hamlin hopes the research will help lower the risk of concussion in rugby players.
“Most rugby injuries happen during tackles, because they’re complicated movements that can place more stress and impact on the head than other moves,” he says.
“To make the tackle safer, we need to find out more about what aspects of tackling are most likely to cause concussion.
“People who get concussion when they’re playing sport can end up with chronic health problems in the long term, so it’s important to address this issue.”
Associate Professor Hamlin says rugby has evolved dramatically over the past two decades, leading to a change in player injuries.
“Players have become faster, heavier and stronger and the game is more physical than it used to be, meaning players are more at risk of injury.”
For example, from 1995 onwards, the average New Zealand forward playing against Australia became 1.5kg heavier each year, he says.
Backs have become even heavier over time, with their weight rising annually by 2.4kg.
“This enlarged body mass means collisions are more forceful and the likelihood of injuries increases.”
Associate Professor Hamlin says he will have help on this project from local experts at the Canterbury and Capital Coast DHBs, the Ara Institute of Canterbury, the University of Canterbury and AUT, as well as international specialists from universities in Japan and Wales.
Another key player in the study is orthopaedic surgeon and Sports Medicine specialist Dr Sohei Takamori, who is on sabbatical leave at Lincoln University from the Yokohama Minami Kyousai Hospital/Sports Medicine Centre in Japan.