Concussion Research

Participating sporting clubs
Randwick District Rugby Union Football Club

Research Activity

The concussion research group held its first formal meeting in December 2016, to bring together researchers, clinicians, sporting groups and industry partners who are interested in increasing education and research in the area of concussion.

Concussion is a common neurological injury in both amateur and professional sporting codes, with an estimated 3.8 million cases occurring each year in the United States. While concussion is defined as "as complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by biomechanical forces", there are noclinical criteria for the diagnosis of concussion or post-concussion syndrome. Our research groups aims to combine research into areas of biomedical engineering, visual neuroscience andneuro-imaging to further our understanding of concussion. We also work with clinicians and innovators from a diagnostic and treatment perspective. Finally, we collaborate with Headsafe, a not for profit organisation dedicated to the prevention of head injuries through advocacy, awareness and education programs.

Impact Sensors
Given the lack of definitive clinical diagnostic criteria for concussion, we are using skin mounted impact sensors on the Randwick Rugby players, to detect and quantifysignificant forces through the head in each match. These results are being correlated directly to other forms of impact sensors worn on the back or in mouth guards. Impacts that are concussive or non-concussive clinically will be correlated with current cognitive and visual screening tools.

Visual Assessment
The visual system accounts for over 50% of the brain circuitry, and the visual pathways are in areas particularly vulnerable to shear-injuries in a head blow. Therefore, in a diffuse brain injury like concussion, there is a strong possibility that abnormalities can be detected using visual tests. We are assessing tests of saccadic eye movements as well as visual evoked potentials, to determine which tests can be used in the sideline and emergency department diagnosis of concussion.

In collaboration with Castlereagh Imaging, we will further investigate neuro-imaging biomarkers of concussion prospectively during the 2017 rugby season.

Device Development
New devices and technologies are being designed and developed by the group for accessible front-line diagnostic assessment, safety monitoring and research applications.

Research Targets

Basic Science
We hope to use biomechanical finite element modelling to better understand concussive injuries and axonal damage.

Aim to create a robust tool for the diagnosis of concussion across all levels of sport (school to professional).

Longer term
Aim to increase the scope for long term research in to health impact, psychological changes, function within the school and work-place.

Aim to develop a modular approach to rehabilitation based on the primary symptoms for each individual patient - cognitive, balance or visual.

Aim to create effective programs for the prevention, diagnosis and management of concussion targeted at sporting teams, schools and health professionals.