The BRAIN study
is working with retired elite rugby players to find out if there are
associations between a history of concussion and neurodegenerative
It is collaboration between the London
School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Queen Mary University of
London, the Institute of Occupational Medicine, the Rugby Football
Union, University College London (UCL) and Oxford University. The Drake Foundation
has committed over £450,000 to funding the research.
The assessments which are being
conducted at the ISEH gather data on the retired players’ quality of
life and social circumstances, with an extensive set of tests capturing
physical and cognitive capabilities - including grip strength, memory
and reasoning - and a neurological clinical examination to look for
signs of disease. There are face-to-face assessments as well as blood
samples taken for analysis. The same tests and procedures are used in a
separate ongoing 1946 Birth Cohort Study carried out by UCL.
The 200 former elite rugby players, who
are over 50, are asked about their experiences of suffering concussion
but the study will also assess if any other characteristics of rugby
playing history such as length of career or age when they took up the
game is associated with any of the health outcomes measured.
There is growing evidence on the
possible increased risks of neurodegenerative diseases including
Dementia, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease (PD),
and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in former contact sport
athletes. Different sports expose players to different types of injuries
and while several studies have suggested an increased risk of various
neurological disorders, this has not yet been established.
Former England International Rob Andrew
who took part in the first phase of the research, said: "As a former
professional rugby player I believe it is really important that we all
understand the potential long-term health outcomes from playing the
sport at a high level."This study will provide an insight into the
health of former players, which can only be a good thing in terms of
players being more informed, but also helping the sport look at how to
manage both the short and long-term risks associated with injury."
Watch the below video about the BRAIN study: