Major new concussion study to focus on ex-stars
Former England internationals will be involved in a major new study looking at the potential effects of concussion on brain health.
The study will involve approximately 200 former players over the age of 50 and will include a number of former England internationals, the Rugby Football Union has announced.
It will put the participants through a number of different tests to assess their neurological health and the data will be compared against a separate concurrent study conducting the same tests on the general population.
The participants for the rugby-related programme will be drawn from a previous study which involved around 300 players who either represented England or Oxford or Cambridge universities.
The RFU said that "evidence is accumulating" 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, and that the purpose of the study is to see whether any link between these conditions and rugby union-related head trauma can be further established.
England captain Dylan Hartley admitted last week that another concussion could end his career.
The hooker was knocked unconscious during the RBS 6 Nations match against France on March 19, where England sealed the Grand Slam, and only returned to action with his club Northampton on May 7.
Professor Neil Pearce from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who will lead the study, said: "Evidence is accumulating on the possible long-term health risks in former contact sport athletes. However, each sport is different and there is currently little evidence from rugby players."