21 April 2021

Concussion numbers in grassroots rugby and league are growing year on year in New Zealand but unlike professional teams, local clubs don’t have the same resources for around-the-clock testing and medical care.

However, one Kiwi company is changing the way clubs can help monitor the long-term effects of concussion with a new tool that takes just three minutes to deliver results.

Between 2010 and 2019, the number of ACC claims for concussion in rugby increased by 60 per cent, which former NRL player David Bhana said can be partly attributed to the approach to them at grassroots level.

“There’s a massive difference in attitude towards concussions in local football,” Bhana said.

“It’s more like, I’ll be right.”

Another issue though is monitoring concussions when they happen.

At club level, when a player suffers a head knock, they undergo a Scat-5 test which includes a series of questions like the date and where the concussed person is.

Some say the test is too repetitive and many already know what is going to be asked so other solutions are needed.

“There is an unmitted need for accurate and timely diagnosis of concussion head injury,” Dr Brian Jong told 1 NEWS.

The ones leading the way in that department are Northcote Rugby League Club, who are investing in a first-of-its-kind eye box by Kiwi company TBI Diagnostics.

The box is designed to help prevent long-term concussions and only takes three minutes with those under a concussion cloud asked to simply follow a moving picture for the duration to determine a baseline of their injury.

“The best solution we have is an educated guess so I guess we are trying to take away any guess work,” Vasco Kovacevic from TBI Diagnostics said.

After the test, the machine stores the data so the next time an athlete suffers a knock, they can monitor how serious it is.

“We previously would put a blanket on someone, saying 30 day suspension or six day suspension, but now we can now actually shorten some of them or sadly, in most cases, prolong them.”

Sad news for some but a great result for grassroots sport.