Academics see opportunities for brain health research

The Highlanders-University of Otago rugby sponsorship deal could draw on the strengths of Dunedin brain research, and make the sport safer, two Otago University academics suggested yesterday.

Anatomy and psychology senior research fellow Andrew Clarkson said there was ''major concern'' about the effects of repeat concussion on the health of rugby players.

''I don't think that there are any negatives with the university sponsoring the Highlanders, but rather positives.

''I would anticipate that with this partnership, more testing will be/could be undertaken to understand the impact that concussions are having on the brain, and how better to prevent this from happening,'' he said by email.

Dunedin School of Medicine sports medicine authority

David Gerrard agreed, saying access to the team could engender research to make rugby safer, and find ways to improve players' longevity.

The partnership fitted well with Dunedin's research strength in brain health, and with the university's historic ties with sport.

Prof Gerrard said the sport was stringent in detecting and treating concussion at the elite rugby level, although there were concerns about its management at high school and junior rugby level.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz