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Concussion Research On Young Women Rugby Players First In Field

Nicole Spriggs wants to make rugby safer with the help of the Prebbleton U17 Girls team.

The Lincoln University Kinesiology and Exercise Science PhD candidate is researching the impact of the collisions the team takes over a whole season, and she is deliberately focusing on players who may often be side-lined in studies in the area.

“Most of the research on collisions and concussions in rugby is male dominated and on elite athletes, even though research suggests that concussions are worst in females and youth players,” Nicole said.

“Additionally youth players' brains have not fully developed, so seeing if repetitive sub-concussion impacts (head knocks not heavy enough to result in a concussion) affects their brain health is important.”

HitIQ instrumented mouth guards which contain three accelerometers and a gyroscope, will record the impacts the players have above an 8G (gravitational force) threshold.

Nicole is investigating whether the collisions affect brain structure, by using MRI scans, and brain function through a cognitive test.

“The hope is to see if sub-concussive impacts across the season affect players as well as investigating if concussive impacts affect players' brain function/structure.

“I’m collecting data across the 2022 and 2023 season, from around 33 games and 81 trainings, so results would be expected in 2024."

Senior Girls’ Head Coach Kevin Scovell said the club was keen to take part in the study.

“We are looking forward to seeing how this progresses throughout the season and the results it could produce for the future of head knocks and concussions.”

Nicole is also part of a wider study with the University of Canterbury which focuses on the usage of head gear to reduce impacts. The Waihora U16 boys team is part of that research.

“Hopefully we’ll get some interesting data where we can compare the boys and the girls.”

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