The Effect of Sub-Concussive Impacts during a Rugby Tackling Drill on Brain Function
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© 2020 The Authors. Published by MDPI Publishing.
Concussion is known to detrimentally affect brain health. Rugby tackles commonly occur with high collision force between tackler and ball carrier, and low impact head contact is not uncommon. Cognitive deficits following a bout of soccer ball heading has been attributed to the impact and termed sub-concussion. Although soccer ball heading studies provide evidence for acute effects of sub-concussion, it is unknown whether this phenomenon occurs following rugby tackles. This study investigates the acute effects of rugby tackles on brain function and balance in rugby players. Twenty-six volunteers were assigned to either the ball carrier (9), tackler (9) or control (8) group. Controls performed running without the tackle. Outcome measures included corticomotor function using transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) and balance was assessed by a series of tasks performed on a NeuroCom Balance Master before and immediately after a tackle training drill. Following the tackling bout, the cortical silent period (cSP) increased for the tacklers with no change for ball carrier and control groups, and no differences between groups for balance measures were observed. Lengthening of cSP observed in the tacklers following the bout has been reported in studies of concussion and may indicate long term detrimental effects.
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