The study conducted by researchers at the Universities of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, involved analysing data gathered from 304 rugby players in Dunedin each week during the 1993 season. The detailed information concerned injuries, protective equipment use and participation in practice and games.
"We found that the risk of concussion was not reduced by the use of padded headgear or mouthguards," said lead researcher Dr. Stephen Marshall, assistant professor of epidemiology and assistant professor of orthopaedics at the UNC schools of public health and medicine.
Hard-shell helmets and most body padding like U.S. football players wear are not permitted in rugby union, said Marshall, also a biostatistician at the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center.
"We did show, however, that use of mouthguards tended to lower the risk of mouth and face injuries by close to 50 percent, and padded headgear appeared to lower the risk of damage to the scalp and to ears by about 40 percent," he said. "Support sleeves cut the risk of sprains and strains about close to 40 percent as well." He and colleagues found no evidence that shinguards and application of tape or grease protected players.
A small percentage of frequent injuries in Rugby are catastrophic, life-altering events that turn recreation into tragedy, the scientists said. "I think the bottom line is that rugby is a wonderful but dangerous sport, and that new types of protective equipment need to be developed if we are to reduce the toll of injury," Marshall said.
MEDICA.de; Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill