In the last decade, more and more players have been wearing headgear to prevent concussion or other head injuries. Before this period, forwards were mainly the ones who opted for scrum hats to prevent cauliflower ears and scrapes to the head. Now-days, forwards still wear scrum hats but so do a lot of backs. This is because there is a belief that scrum hats can reduce the impact of a collision to the head. Although to some extent this could be seen as false.

If you didn’t get a chance to read my previous article on concussion, you can read it here;

Should it be compulsory for players to wear head gear?

If you have been following rugby for the last few years you will know how much concussion has been discussed. It is the epidemic of the modern game and needs to be take seriously. Consequentially this has created a view that all players should be forced to wear head gear in order to protect themselves.

There is some legitimacy  behind this viewpoint. For example, research was done on a variety of headgear using different testing. The Canterbury Ventilator reduced 46% of liner acceleration. This means that it slowed down the object being hit, in this case it would be the players head. This is rather signifcant but only makes a small difference when reducing concussion. The Ventilator was also the best for reducing damage to the skull, which mean it would be worth while to wear to reduce scrapes and bruising.

On the other hand, there is an argument that head gear could do more harm than good.

It might put you in danger

As previously stated, backs are regularly seen wearing scrum hats in the modern game. A perfect example of this is Leigh Halfpenny and Jack Nowell. Halfpenny in particular has been struggling with concussion, which made him miss the majority of the Six Nations. So why is it bad that they’re wearing scrum hats?

It has been scientifically proven that wearing a scrum hat gives you a false sense of security. Moreover, if your wearing head protection you may put your head in a dangerous position during a tackle. This is extremely dangerous because we have seen that head gear will unlikely prevent a concussion. Now the easy solution to this is to spread the word to players of all levels, that head gear does not live up to what it promises. The issue is, over 60 % of players believe head gear prevents serve head injuries, whilst 37% of those believe they are extremely effective…

Barry O’Driscoll ( Brian O’Driscoll brother) was a doctor for the International Rugby Board, he left due to the lack of care surrounding concussion. He stated “what they found was that probably headgear gives people a false sense of security and they probably went in that little bit harder because they felt protected”. If rugby doctors are realising how detrimental scrum hats can be, why is more not being done?

The focus needs to be on technique

If you have read any articles on concussion, you will know that technique is the best way to tackle concussion. O’Driscoll supports this further by stating “we are currently focused on the area of prevention via education and on-field management”. If rugby can sort out technique by high quality tackling education and making sure head assessment are done properly, rugby could be relatively clean of concussions. If this is combined by being honest about scrum hats, the amount of concussion will decrease dramatically.

In my next article on concussion, I will be assessing if there is any revolutionary head protection coming onto the market which may help combat concussion.


Written by Sam Powell