Concussion must not be a ‘badge of honour’ in rugby, Newsline

Durban – Suffering concussion during a rugby game should not be a “badge of honour”.

That’s according to sports scientist and biokineticist Cameron Scullard, who is doing PhD research into neuro­athletic training in football at the ­University of Saarland in Germany.

A University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) sports science and biokinetics Master’s graduate this year, Scullard was awarded a scholarship to pursue his studies in the field of neuroscience in sport and has been in Saarbrucken, Germany for three months.

The former Glenwood Boys’ High School pupil, Scullard completed an Honours degree in biokinetics at UKZN. His Master’s research into concussion among school rugby players was titled “Knowledge, Attitudes, Perceptions, Reporting Behaviours and Management of Concussion among High School Rugby Players in KwaZulu-­Natal”, and delved into the contentious issue of concussion injuries in schoolboy rugby. One of his examiners was Professor Jon Patricios, considered to be an expert on the subject.

“Rugby is one of the most popular sports in South African schools, a contact sport that presents high risk for head injuries, particularly at amateur and low skill levels. Therefore it is surprising that the current literature focuses on provincial youth week tournaments with the most skilled players, which only account for a small fraction of the school rugby playing population in the country,” said Scullard.

His research focused on players aged 13 – 19, skill levels A – D teams and cultural backgrounds in private and public schools. The results showed that only half of the players, 49.5% of the players reported having been exposed to education on concussion. They recorded a 65.5% Index of Essential Concussion Knowledge which indicated an unsatisfactory knowledge and high safety risk.

“Players have false perceptions that sustaining a concussion is a ‘badge of honour’ and tend to under report concussions, because of not wanting to sit out subsequent matches,” said Scullard.

Having grown up in Durban playing many different sports (rugby, cricket, squash and personal training being his favourites) and with a passion for sport and health, his study into concussion led him into neuroathletics and his PhD research topic of neuroathletic training in football.

“Neuroathletic training is a relatively new concept in the world, apart from Germany and the US.

“The focus is on the optimisation of the body’s neuronal processes, linking the brains and nervous system activation, and subsequent control of all bodily movement efficiency. One example can be the training of the body’s visual system through specific ocular exercises for improving fixation and vision clarity of a moving cricket or soccer ball,” said Scullard.

He added that the neurosciences have “a significant role to play in allowing athletes at the highest level to find that extra competitive edge”.

“Among athletic trainers, there is often a disproportionate emphasis between training the musculoskeletal system and nervous system, with the latter being directly responsible for controlling and co-ordinating the former.

The Independent on Saturday