Former England internationals will be involved in a major new study looking at the potential effects of concussion on brain health.
The study will involve approximately 200 former players over the age of 50 and will include a number of former England internationals, the Rugby Football Union has announced.
It will put the participants through a number of different tests to assess their neurological health and the data will be compared against a separate concurrent study conducting the same tests on the general population. The participants for the rugby-related programme will be drawn from a previous study which involved around 300 players who either represented England or Oxford or Cambridge universities.
The RFU said in a statement that “evidence is accumulating” on the possible increased risks of neurodegenerative diseases including dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease (PD) and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in former contact sport athletes, and that the purpose of the study is to see whether any link between these conditions and rugby union-related head trauma can be further established.
England captain Dylan Hartley admitted last week that another concussion could end his career.
The hooker was knocked unconscious during the Six Nations match against France on 19 March and only returned to action with his club Northampton on May 7.
“If I got another lay-off now, I’d be worried,” he said.
“I’d probably start looking at other careers or maybe a long lay-off,” Hartley said.
Officials from the NFL acknowledged a link between American football-related head trauma and CTE in March.