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Technology in sport – opportunity to shine light on rugby’s dark side

concussion, Big data | [fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments


We’re a proud sporting nation that continuously punches above our weight. My father has always told me that “rugby is in our DNA” which I’m sure rings true for many rugby players and supporters across New Zealand, including myself. Take the All Blacks for example: current world champions who have held the no.1 ranking longer than all other teams combined, and who on average put 25 points on the opposition.

Equal with our success is a masculine aura that still surrounds our beloved game, which in my opinion poses a serious risk to many current and future players. There’s a dark side to rugby in New Zealand where injury is still seen as a weakness, and for many players, finishing the game is prioritised over treating an injury – players don’t want to come off the field.

I’m talking specifically about the [previously] unknown realm of head injuries and concussion, where detecting one has been described as more of an art than science and a “she’ll be right”, “suck it up” remedy has been applied more often than not on the rugby field.

iPad combined with C3 Logix has developed a new app designed for coaches to more easily and readily detect concussion and they’re calling it “A new game plan for concussion”. With the iPad now being deployed in a multitude of mission critical tasks, including our very own New Zealand police force, we’re starting to see the use of these devices in contexts we’ve never witnessed before, whether it be marine biologists using them in the depths of the ocean to help preserve coral reefs, or hospital physicians replacing bed charts with iPads to access real-time data on patents.

This innovation might have something to do with the US’s staggering concussion records in high school sport with almost 300,000 cases reported in 2012, and 150,000 of these resulting from football alone.  For those unfamiliar with concussion, it can be defined as a sudden impact of the head causing the brain to slam against the inside of the skull, creating a coup injury. The brain can then rebound and strike the skull on the opposite side, causing a countercoup concussion. Concussions can’t be detected by an MRI and don’t show up on an x-ray, making them even harder to identify.

The new app is used to record an athlete’s baseline measurements in their normal state. When a possible concussion occurs the player is taken aside (somewhere quiet) for a post-injury test using the app. The results are then compared with the baseline, where a performance drop is easily spotted and concussion is easier to identify. The players also undertake a comprehensive checklist rating their own injury’s severity including answering simple questions to test their memory, concentration and thinking. The data stored by the app is then used to help assess player recovery, easing them back into sport without risk, whilst also having the data available for doctors when treating their patients.

The emergence [and use] of big data is another piece to the puzzle for making this app effective. C3 Logix stores all the data surrounding a patient’s previous conditions and results, improving information sharing when different doctors treat an athlete - a step that has been overlooked in the past. Jason Cruickshank, athletic trainer at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio who’s deployed the iPad with his athletes said, “using the iPad with C3 Logix, we get hard, factual data that we can put in front of the athlete and say ‘look, this is where you should be’”.

For a country that exports 70% of it’s tech industry, is considered ‘ahead of the curve’ for our social and technological developments, and takes rugby so seriously, New Zealand is still living in the past when it comes to evaluating the severity of head injuries and concussion on the rugby field. 

Previously it was pencil and paper data collection, and evaluation required a lot of guesswork. Now concussion symptoms can be measured, injury progress can be evaluated, medical information stored, and using the iPad takes the mystery out of concussion.

Join us for ‘The Power of Predictive’ breakfast seminar on Tuesday 26 May at Eden Park. For more information and to register click here.


Topics: concussion, Big data

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