National Rugby League pledges support to head injury research

The National Rugby League (NRL) will partner with the University of Newcastle and the Spaulding Research Institute at Harvard Medical School in one of the world’s largest studies into head injuries and brain health in collision sport.

The Retired Professional Rugby League Players Brain Health Study will be a multinational, multiyear program of research to transform the understanding of head injuries.

The NRL will provide initial funding for the research program of $250,000 which will advance knowledge and health care, not only for rugby league players but for athletes in other contact and collision sports.

The funding will take the game’s investment in this area, which includes the Injury Surveillance Bunker, Sideline Surveillance technology and education programs to over $1 million in 2020.

The research is a multifaceted project that includes a detailed health survey, which examines the physical, psychological, and cognitive health of former NRL players. It also includes a comprehensive study of the brain health of former players involving in-person neuropsychological assessment and multimodal brain imaging.

A brain donation program for former NRL players has also been established with the Sydney Brain Bank, funded by Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and UNSW.

It is expected the research will continue for decades.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said the game had spent 12 months working with researchers from the University of Newcastle and Harvard Medical School to ensure a comprehensive study which specifically focuses on rugby league players.

“This research relationship adds another pillar to the work and investment we are doing to enhance player safety in our game,” he said.

“We must always evolve and learn. This research will transform global understanding of these issues.

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