Innovation aims to boost safety for young rugby players
While concussion is a recognised problem in contact sports like rugby, it is generally accepted that wearing padded headgear does little to mitigate the risk. Collaborative research at the University of Canterbury is now putting that to the test, with an innovative prototype set to be trialled by young rugby players next year.
Professor Nick Draper’s son, Matt Draper, who represents Ellesmere Rugby, models the headgear prototype at Waihora.
Much has been done to reduce injuries, including concussions, on the rugby field in recent years through programmes like RugbySmart. Sports science and engineering researchers at the University of Canterbury, in conjunction with industry, are now testing whether safe protective headgear could also make a difference.
Spearheading the research is Professor Nick Draper, of UC Education, Health and Human Development. A seasoned rugby coach, he has a particular interest in exploring whether head injury risks in junior rugby players could be reduced through wearing the right protective headgear. Also on the project is Professor Keith Alexander, of UC Mechanical Engineering and renowned inventor of the Springfree Trampoline, along with UC Civil and Mechanical Engineering lecturer Dr Natalia Kabaliuk.
Extensive testing of existing commercial headgear at UC’s Mechanical Engineering Aerodynamics Laboratory indicate that it offers some protection from head-to-head, but not glancing, impacts. Now an innovative prototype – using new materials designed to offer additional protection – has been developed for field testing next year by junior players at Waihora Rugby Club.
Designed at UC and made by sportswear manufacturer Kukri New Zealand, the prototype has exciting potential for boosting safety in the game.