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ISEH Physicians Theo Farley, Physiotherapist and Concussion expert, Dr Richard Sylvester, Consultant Neurologist and Professor Mat Wilson, Head of Sport and Exercise Medicine were part of a research study that investigated whether cervical proprioception (the ability to distinguish where your head and neck is in space) was associated with concussion in professional rugby players. Led by Theo at ISEH Concussion Clinic, the physicians and researchers were essentially interested to find out if players with poor proprioception were at greater risk of sustaining a concussion, with the findings being published in ScienceDirect.

This research was performed as concussion is now the most commonly occurring match injury in elite rugby, therefore physicians are increasingly recognising the impact that the injury has on players. To date, only neck strength has been identified as a modifiable (a physical quality that we can change) risk factor to concussion. 

In order to successfully investigate, they assessed 165 players for cervical proprioception using the Joint Position Error Test. The physicians also monitored their exposure to match play (so that we could allow for players that didn't play much in our analysis) and the concussion incidence in the group over an entire season.  

The outcome of the study revealed that players who had poor proprioception to right rotation were at greater risk of concussion. Further analysis revealed that for every 10% of increased proprioception error, the risk of concussion went up by 5%. This is important to know as undertaking this test in pre-season could help to identify rugby players most at risk of sustaining a concussion. Training could then be implemented to improve this function with the aim of reducing concussion rates.  

Theo Farley said: "We are starting to understand the factors that lead to an increased risk of concussion in male rugby players. Although there is still a lot of work to do in this space, we now have some actionable measures to impact change. Going forward we are particularly interested in undertaking similar research in female athletes."

Read the published paper in ScienceDirect.