Thomas Adcock

Thomas Adcock

Industrial Design & Technology BA

Diagnosing Concussion in Rugby

Advances in sport science and nutrition have seen rugby players growing bigger and more powerful every season. The average player is now 16kg heavier than 40 years ago, leading to the herculean collisions we are used to seeing in rugby. Therefore it is unsurprising that concussion (a minor traumatic brain injury, caused by impact to the head or upper body) is now the most common injury in rugby. Continuing to play rugby in the weeks following a concussion could lead to 'chronic traumatic encephalopathy' (CTE), dementia and in some cases, the fatal 'second impact syndrome'. With the Rugby World Cup coming to England in 2015, the sport should be thriving. However, the concussion problem has recently come to a crisis with increasing numbers of players being forced to retire due to concussive injury. Good design could allow players to continue playing rugby safely. This project focuses on the whole 'diagnosis experience', rather than only designing a product. Currently, amateur rugby players are rarely diagnosed for a concussion. Should a player take a big hit, it is likely they will return to play the following week, if not in the same game. However, following a concussion it is advised that players should follow a 21-day 'graduated return to play' scheme. This exposes a player to increasing levels of exercise and impact - ensuring the brain has time to heal before being exposed to dangerous consecutive concussions. Currently, amateur rugby players have no way of knowing if they are concussed following a match, blaming the headache on something else, rather than a concussion! This 'choice' to ignore the injury and return to play, is biased by players' macho attitudes and a lack of education within rugby on concussion. The final concept to facilitate the improved diagnosis experience is a headwear garment containing impact-sensing technology, which pairs with a smartphone app to present a player with their own unique 'impact profile' following a match. This shows the number of impacts (and the subsequent risk of concussion) alongside advice to seek a professional diagnosis if impacts above set thresholds have occurred.