Objective measures of brain health: a pilot study with a somatosensory device in rugby union

Powell, D., Benham, Alex ORCID logo ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4798-5260 , Stuart, S. and Godfrey, A. (2020) Objective measures of brain health: a pilot study with a somatosensory device in rugby union. Physiotherapy, 107 (S1). e22.

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physio.2020.03.032


Purpose: Rugby union has one of the highest incidences of sport related concussion of any contact sport. Despite considerable media interest and research, the underlying relationship between participation in university rugby union and the manifestation of concussion is poorly understood. To address this problem, novel, non-invasive technologies have been developed to quantitatively measure brain health and provide real-time feedback. The’Brain Gauge somatosensory system’ provides a diagnostic system for overall brain health through the measurement of a variety of measures of mental acuity. The purpose of this pilot study was to explore the potential of the Brain Gauge somatosensory device to monitor changes in aspects of brain health in university-level rugby players, at baseline and over a six-week period.

Methods: Five university-level rugby union players and four non-rugby player controls gave informed consent and were recruited for the study. A physiotherapist used the Brain Gauge technology to measure: Reaction Time (RT), Sequential (SEQA) and Simultaneous Amplitude Discrimination (SIMAD) and Reaction Time variability (RTVar). In addition, the Rivermead Post Concussion Questionnaire was completed every week by participants to monitor symptoms commonly associated with concussion. All data was assessed for normality and analysed with the SPPS (v.24). Analysis of Variances (ANOVA) and Pearson's correlations were used to test for differences within and between individuals, and for changes across the six-week testing period. In addition, the Rivermead Post Concussion Questionnaire was used to monitor changes in symptoms across the 6-week testing period.

Results: Preliminary results demonstrated that the Brain Gauge system could be used to measure brain health of rugby union players and non-players. Specifically, there were significant differences between the groups for three of the four brain health (RT p = 0.001], SIMAD p = 0.00968], RTVar p = 0.0083]) measurements. This suggests that the Brain Gauge may be effective in measuring various brain health outcomes between rugby players and non-players. Only one of the four brain health measurements (SIMAD) displayed statistically significant improvement [F(2.160, 17.278) = 3.846.p = 0.039] over the six- week testing period in participants, suggesting there were no significant changes in other measures of mental acuity over time. Therefore, the Brain Gauge system may provide quantification of changes in brain health over time.

Conclusion(s): This pilot study showed that the Brain Gauge somatosensory system can feasibly measure aspects of brain health in rugby union players and non-players, providing quantitative data to inform clinical decisions or physiotherapy practice. Further research with a larger cohort across a whole season of games is required to establish a causal relationship between brain health, concussion and participation in university-level rugby union.

Implications: Overall this pilot study has demonstrated the potential use of non-invasive technology by physiotherapists to screen and track changes in measures of mental acuity of rugby union players, which could be applied to assess and monitor concussion recovery.

Item Type: Article
Journal / Publication Title: Physiotherapy
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0031-9406
Departments: Institute of Health > Rehabilitation and Sport Science
Additional Information: (Abstract from Physiotherapy UK Conference 2019 / Physiotherapy 107 (2020) e1–e73.)
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2023 16:16
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2024 13:55
URI: https://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/7057


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