World Rugby has announced today at its Player Welfare and Laws Symposium that it is to evaluate the latest eye-tracking technology to assist with the identification and management of concussions in the sport.
Reflecting the sport’s unwavering commitment to embracing and evaluating the latest science and technology in a rugby context, the international federation is set to partner with two leading providers of eye-tracking technology – EyeGuide and NeuroFlex® – to run in-match pilot studies.
It is envisaged that the technology would be used within a ‘shadow study’ alongside the Head Injury Assessment (HIA) to determine whether the technology could further enhance an HIA process that is operating at approximately 90 per cent accuracy in elite competitions. It will also be used within the six-stage graduated return-to-play process to monitor players returning from injury.
Eye-tracking technology as a means of supporting brain health has demonstrated positive potential in various clinical settings with the latest aggregate data suggesting that oculomotor functions are altered at the time of, or shortly after, concussion*.
World Rugby Chief Medical Officer Dr Éanna Falvey said: “As a key element of our progressive approach to injury reduction and management in rugby, rugby continually explores and assesses technology developments that could enhance the care of players in our sport at all levels.
“The ambition of the eye-tracking study in partnership with NeuroFlex® and EyeGuide is to determine the technology’s objective diagnostic accuracy in a rugby environment and help inform the advancement of World Rugby’s future concussion identification and management strategies.
“We believe that oculomotor screening examination in rugby has the potential to boost the identification and management of concussions by objectively identifying potential abnormalities in oculomotor function between a player’s baseline and when removed for an HIA assessment, adding to the depth of identification methods available to the sport.”
EyeGuide CEO Patrick Carney added: “Oculomotor function provides valuable insights on brain health and our FOCUSTM platform captures objective data on eye movements in just 10 seconds, allowing such screening to take place as often as needed. There is growing support and promise for rapid, objective tools such as FOCUSTM to play a role in ongoing player wellness monitoring. We are honoured to support World Rugby in this important research.”
NeuroFlex® Chief Science Officer Professor Mimi Galiana said: “We are delighted to be partnering with World Rugby who are committed to advancing the welfare of elite players and indeed players of all ages through undertaking such a study.
“NeuroFlex® is ground-breaking technology that will allow the medical team to objectively assess and manage concussions and vestibular disorders by leveraging eye-tracking in Virtual Reality and provides clinically accredited accuracy on key measures of brain function. NeuroFlex® is a result of my 30 years of research and development in the field of eye-tracking and head movement with over 200 research papers published in leading peer reviewed journals.”
Details of partner competitions will be announced in due course. The commitment builds on exploration of other key technology advances in rugby’s progressive approach to injury-prevention such as saliva biomarkers and enhanced pitch-side video injury identification within the HIA process.
For further information about rugby’s player welfare and medical programmes, visit playerwelfare.worldrugby.org.
* (2017) Echemendia RJ, Broglio SP, Davis GA, Guskiewicz KM, Hayden KA, Leddy JJ, Meehan WP, Putukian M, Sullivan SJ, Schneider KJ, & McCrory P. What tests and measures should be added to the SCAT3 and related tests to improve their reliability, sensitivity and/or specificity in sideline diagnosis? A systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2017, 51:895-901.
Photos: NeuroFlex® (main and bottom left) and EyeGuide (top right)