Incidence and magnitude of head impacts experienced by female adolescent rugby players across a season of rugby participation

Spriggs, N
Hamlin, Michael
Kabaliuk, N
Henley, S
Heward-Swale, AG
Draper, N
Conference Contribution - published
Fields of Research
ANZSRC::4207 Sports science and exercise
Introduction. There is growing concern regarding the safety of rugby union players and ongoing medical problems following a concussion and/or long term participation in rugby union. However research on females and adolescents is sparse and recent changes to rugby union rules are based off elite or varsity level athletes. Adolescent female rugby players have a different anatomy and game demands, placing them at greater concussion risk compared to male players. Investigation of sex and age-specific impact magnitude and incidence of head impacts is required to help improve the safety of female adolescent rugby players and to increase our understanding of how these impacts affect ongoing brain health. Methods. Across the 2022 rugby season Eighteen U17 female rugby players aged 12-17 years completed pre-season and post-season-assessment including: (i) 3T advanced magnetic resonance imaging, (ii) neurocognitive testing (NIH toolbox), (iii) health history questionaire, (iv) motor control questionnaire. During the season participants wore an instrumented mouthguard (recording linear and angular accelerations above 8g) for all school and club games and contact training sessions which were videoed in order to verify all mouthguard detected impacts. Results. One seasons of female collision magnitude and incidence data will be presented. Average total incidence per team was 23 at training and 75 for games. Average peak linear acceleration (PLA) was 21.1 g at training and 21.6 g at games, the total seasonal average was 21.4 g. The largest impact for the season was 96 g. Conclusions. The study highlights the need for sex and age specific, objective data to measure head impact exposure in rugby union. Monitoring head impact size and seasonal load is important for rugby safety and understanding the impact of concussive and non-concussive impacts in rugby. We provide insight into head load of female adolescent rugby players across a season of club and school rugby game and trainings.
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