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Research proves rugby is a hard game

University of Canterbury research proves rugby is a hard game – and offers help

August 6, 2014

A substantial University of Canterbury research project has not just confirmed rugby is a tough game but has found ways to help coaches and medical staff to manage players’ recovery and training during different phases of competition.

Researchers led by Associate Professor Steve Gieseg and his PhD student Angus Lindsay have demonstrated rugby is a physically hard game but measuring the impact on a player’s body is equally difficult to measure without drawing out large amounts of blood to test.

The university research project has been investigating the impact on Canterbury rugby players for two years, investigating 44 samples a game.

Associate Professor Gieseg says they have been collaborating with researchers at the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Canterbury Health laboratories.

``We have developed a set of non-invasive and stress free chemical tests to measure the level of damage occurring in rugby players using only urine and salvia.

``Our team found levels of damage occurring in Canterbury rugby players after ITM Cup games which were in the ranges expected from serious trauma. The level of damage was greater than could be predicted from GPS or video analysis. The measurements also show that some players could heal from this damage remarkably quickly.’’

The research findings form a substantial part of PhD student Angus Lindsay’s research, which is sponsored by St George’s Hospital and through a private donation to the University of Canterbury. St George’s has established a relationship with the university to support health-related research. The rugby study is one of the first initiatives to result from the association.

The university research team, with support from Adjunct Professor Nick Draper, optimised and refined proven measurements of damage while treating the players’ data as if they were car accident victims.

``Our research measured two chemicals in the urine and two in the saliva to gain a global view of how players responded to the physical stress of an individual game.

``The measurements tested the level of muscle damage, inflammation, immune resistance and mental stress. The measurements can be used to assist coaches and medical staff to manage players’ recovery and training during different phases of competition,’’ Associate Professor Gieseg says.

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