Rugby headgear and concussion prevention: misconceptions could increase aggressive play

Neurosurg Focus. 2016 Apr;40(4):E12. doi: 10.3171/2016.1.FOCUS15615.


OBJECTIVE Multiple studies have illustrated that rugby headgear offers no statistically significant protection against concussions. However, there remains concern that many players believe rugby headgear in fact does prevent concussions. Further investigation was undertaken to illustrate that misconceptions about concussion prevention and rugby headgear may lead to an increase in aggressive play. METHODS Data were constructed by Internet survey solicitation among United States collegiate rugby players across 19 teams. Initial information given was related to club, age, experience, use of headgear, playing time, whether the rugger played football or wrestling in high school, and whether the player believed headgear prevented concussion. Data were then constructed as to whether wearing headgear would increase aggressive playing style secondary to a false sense of protection. RESULTS A total of 122 players responded. All players were male. The average player was 19.5 years old and had 2.7 years of experience. Twenty-three of 122 players (18.9%) wore protective headgear; 55.4% of players listed forward as their primary position. Overall, 45.8% (55/120) of players played 70-80 minutes per game, 44.6% (54/121) played football or wrestled in high school, 38.1% (45/118) believed headgear prevented concussions, and 42.2% (51/121) stated that if they were using headgear they would be more aggressive with their play in terms of running or tackling. Regression analysis illustrated that those who believed headgear prevented concussions were or would be more likely to engage in aggressive play (p = 0.001). CONCLUSIONS Nearly 40% of collegiate rugby players surveyed believed headgear helped to prevent concussions despite no scientific evidence that it does. This misconception about rugby headgear could increase aggressive play. Those who believed headgear prevented concussion were, on average, 4 times more likely to play with increased aggressive form than those who believed headgear did not prevent concussions (p = 0.001). This can place all players at increased risk without providing additional protection. Further investigation is warranted to determine if headgear increases the actual measured incidence of concussion among rugby players in the United States.

Keywords: concussion; head injury; rugby.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Brain Concussion / epidemiology*
  • Brain Concussion / prevention & control*
  • Football*
  • Head Protective Devices* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Soccer*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Young Adult