SPRINZ - IRB Rugby Health Study


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IRB Rugby Health Study

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How’s the mind and body holding up now that you’ve retired from rugby, cricket or hockey?

If you are a retired male rugby, cricket or field hockey player we need your help to find out more about the long-term health implications of playing rugby – and it’s all for the good of the game.  By participating in the first international study of its kind you’ll be making a vital contribution to the welfare of future generations of rugby players.

(Just in case you're wondering... by 'retired' we mean from regular matches and training, the occasional game is fine).


Everyone taking part goes into the draw for $1000 worth of All Blacks Test tickets, flights and accommodation for two people as well as 35 copies of Buck Shelford’s book ‘Buck Up’.


As this is medical research we need you to fill out a consent form, the link below will take you it. Confidentiality is assured. Once that is completed you can head straight to the two online questionnaires we would like you to fill out which should take 25-30 minutes each


If you would like to take part now: CLICK HERE


If you would like to talk to someone first before taking part please contact:
Scott Brown on rugbyhealth@aut.ac.nz or (09) 921 9999 ext 5182


You can also take part in two clinic tests for a more in depth assessment of your neurological health. For more information about what is involved in all parts of the study see the page menu below or contact Scott.


Page Menu
  1. All Blacks, Investec Super Rugby, ITM Cup, NPC etc. players currently aged between 30 and 60.
  2. Club rugby players of any level currently aged between 30 and 60.
  3. People who were involved in the Rugby Injury Prevention and Performance (RIPP) study in Dunedin in 1993. 
  4. Cricket and field hockey players of any level currently aged between 30 and 60.

This study is designed for retired players only, players still actively involved in playing rugby are not required to participate. The occasional game is fine.

Why are we doing this study?

A life of rugby provides so many benefits for those taking part – for some it’s a career, for all it’s about mateship, enjoyment, good health and fitness and a lifelong love of the game. Along the way, as with any physical pursuits, there’s knocks, niggles and injuries – some more severe than others.

We all know that there are risks involved in playing rugby. 

What we don’t know at the moment is the extent to which playing rugby affects players over the longer term - for better or worse. If we don’t know, we can’t maximise the benefits of being involved in the game, while minimising the risks. It is important to understand that the study is not just about concussions - it is a broad study of how people who played rugby are getting on later in life. We need people to enrol regardless of how they are getting on - whether they are happy and healthy or having difficulty with any aspect of their lives.


What do you need to do?

We need former players to do two online questionnaires. We need only about one hour of your time – a small investment but a big contribution to the future welfare of people involved in rugby.


Part A: Brain and Nervous System Health Survey, CNS Vital Signs Test

What is the neuropsychological health status of retired rugby athletes compared with retired non-contact sport athletes?

This survey will give us measures of visual and verbal memory, information processing speed, attention, reaction time and other important brain health measures and will take around 30 minutes.


Part B: General Health Questionnaire

What is the general health status of retired rugby athletes compared with retired non-contact sport athletes?

This questionnaire has sections on medical health, joint and bone health, mental health, alcohol and drugs and social relationships and should take between 20-30 minutes.

In addition, you can also come to AUT Akoranga North Shore Campus for two clinic tests:


Part C: Balance Assessment

What is the balance status of retired rugby athletes compared with retired non-contact sport athletes?

Clinic based assessment using the Equitest balance device taking 30 minutes.


Part D: Brain and Body Connection Assessment 

What is the state of connection between the brain and body of retired rugby athletes compared with retired non-contact sport athletes?

Clinic based assessment using the transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS for short) device to measure how well your brain communicates with the rest of your body. Testing will take 90 minutes.



IRB_thumbnailWho are the organisations involved in conducting the research?

The project involves the International Rugby Board (IRB), New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU), the AUT University Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ), the AUT University Health Rehabilitation Research Institute (HRRI), the AUT University National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neuroscience (NISAN), the University of Otago Injury Prevention Research Unit (IPRU) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The New Zealand Rugby Union Players Association and New Zealand Cricket Players Association endorse the project and are helping with promotion of the study and recruitment of players.

Who are the people involved in conducting the research?


Martin Raftery
Dr Martin Raftery (lead investigator)

Chief Medical Officer, International Rugby Board (IRB).

Link to profile on LinkedIn.



Ken Quarrie
Dr Ken Quarrie (lead investigator)

Senior Scientist (Injury Prevention and Performance), New Zealand Rugby Union.

Link to more information. 
Link to profile at zoominfo.


Patria Hume IRB
Professor Patria Hume (lead investigator)

Professor, Human Performance, Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand, AUT University.

Link to full profile at SPRINZ.



Media Coverage 

Rugby Wants to Study Concussions, but Few Want to Participate (NYTimes, 15 May 2014)

Player shortage stalls rugby study (NZ Herald, 25th July 2013)

Professor Patria Hume speaks to Duncan Garner on Radio Live 24th July 2013

Rugby concussion study short on numbers (Stuff.co.nz, 27th June 2013)

Opinion: Rugby injuries: young, dumb and playing on (11 April 2013).

What is rugby doing to our heads (3rd Degree, 10 April 2013).

Monitoring for concussion (Seven Sharp, 4 April 2013).

Electronic mouthguards help rugby players (Stuff.co.nz, 4 April 2013).

Buck Shelford to front major study, (Stuff.co.nz, 9 Dec 2012).    

Volunteers required for research into rugby and cricket, North Shore Times, 4 Dec 2012).

Shoulder charge ban questioned, (TVNZ Close Up, 21 Nov 2012).

Professor Patria Hume speaks to Mick Watson on RadioLive (27 October 2012).

Heading in the right direction, (RugbyNews Magazine, September 2012, Volume 43, Issue 30).

Rugby takes a deeper look at concussions (New York Times, 23 August 2012).

Rugby trial widened for concussion assessment (Boxscore World Sportswire, 6 August 2012). 

Concussion spell to be trialled during ITM cup (stuff.co.nz, 8 August 2012). 

Rugby Union brings in concussion rule change (NZ Herald, 4 August 2012).

Link to the AUT media release regarding this study (3 August 2012). 

Last updated: 19 May 2014 3:15pm

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