While the NFL tries to figure out how to slow down the rise of traumatic brain injuries in the sport and all the bad press that comes with them, it seems the one place they may not be looking is other sports. They have invested in research, improved the number of sideline medical professionals armed with technology to diagnose concussions, and they are even eyeing rules to more limit the types of hits players can throw.
A contact sport in New Zealand, on the other hand, seems to be managing traumatic brain injury just fine. Rugby, a game known to be pretty brutal, played with little to no padding and absolutely no helmet, is actually being praised by medical professionals for their efforts to minimize head trauma risk, according to Stuff.Co.NZ.
Neurological Foundation adviser Jon Simcock thinks the reason brain injury is so much more common in the NFL comes from lack of complete understanding about the risks of brain injury combined with a system where players are subtly (or not so subtly) pushed to hide symptoms to protect their earning potential and place on the roster.
Another factor contributing to our TBI epidemic, in Simcock’s eyes, is the one-size-fits-all approach to concussion. “There is lots of misleading information about it. The brain reacts differently to a knock on the head at different ages. […] You can’t easily write a protocol for everyone.”
Though Stuff.Co.NZ’s article doesn’t specify what regulation is being used by the New Zealand rugby teams, the standards have been internationally recognized before. While many worry about the potential neutering of football in America, New Zealand has found a way to protect players while keeping the heart and soul of the sport alive.