There's a potential link between frequent concussion and brain function, says a major study of rugby union players.
It is the largest study ever done on rugby union in New Zealand and the players needed to be aware of the risks, said Dr. Patria Hume
"If you have a concussion you need to report it and get it medically assessed. You also need to consider that potentially there may be some long-term health effects. Ninety four percent of elite level rugby players experienced one or more concussions, that's a lot." said Dr. Hume.
The Auckland University of Technology study was commissioned by World Rugby in 2012 amid growing fears about the potential for long-term brain injuries in high-impact sports.
It examined the health of 485 men -- 131 of them former professional rugby players, 281 amateur rugby players and 73 who had played non-contact sports such as cricket and hockey.
Hume said the study, which is in the process of being peer reviewed for publication, showed a statistically significant link between repeated concussion and brain damage. "We've got to go through that scientific process, but what I'm saying is that, as a scientist, it's irresponsible for people to say there are no long-term brain health issues. Because all indications so far from the analysis we have done indicates that there possibly are for the rugby players and for people who have been concussed more than four times."
She said rugby players who has suffered four or more concussions performed worse in tests measuring mental and physical coordination, motor speed and multi-tasking.