Rugby Codes Research Group (RCRG) - Interdisciplinary Research

Established in February 2010 to integrate rugby-related research findings and inform holistic advancement of practice within the rugby codes.

Interdisciplinary with collaborators from injury prevention, biomechanics, strength and conditioning, coaching, psychology, performance analysis, management and business, epidemiology, physiotherapy, medicine, nursing.

  • Global Rugby Health Research Group focuses on sport originated brain injury (SOBI) (see Traumatic Brain Injury Network for details), and musculoskeletal injury – led by Professor Patria Hume, Dr Doug King, and Dr Karen Hind.

Currently recruiting study participants

  • Female specific brain health research - We are developing a protocol to help study brain injured females. If you have a regular natural menstrual cycle, and would like to take part in the study that will measure hormone profiles and symptoms across the menstrual cycle.
    Download recruitment information

Featured projects

World Rugby/NZR/AUT NZ RugbyHealth project - Professor Patria Hume et al.

The project provided a snapshot of the current physical and neuropsychological health of retired rugby, cricket and hockey players. Data were collected from October 2012 to March 2015 for 485 participants: 131 retired elite rugby, 281 retired community rugby and 73 retired non‐contact sport players.

Read more

UK Rugby Health study - Dr Karen Hind et al.

Repeated concussions in professional rugby players associated with poor mental health post retirement. Former professional rugby players are more likely to show signs of depression, anxiety and irritability compared to amateur rugby players and non-contact athletes.

Read more

Our research

Grants gained

  • A 2-year prospective injury epidemiological analysis of Rugby Sevens in North America
    Awarding body: National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE)
    Amount and duration: US$250,000 for 2 years)
    Principal investigators: Answorth Allen, Victor Lopez, Robert Cantu, Patria Hume, Richard Ma, Meryle Weinstein, Arun Gupta
  • Rugby Codes Research Group (RCRG) governance and technology expansion programme
    Awarding body: Auckland University of Technology Strategic Research Investment Fund
    Amount: NZ$250,000 gained of $540,000 requested
    Principal investigators: Lesley Ferkins, Patria Hume, Matt Brughelli. Associate investigators: Roy Nates, Stephen Reay, Enrico Haemmerle, Doug King, Coral Ingley, Nic Gill, Alice Theadom, Gwyn Lewis, Anna Lorimer
  • The IRB/NZR/AUT RugbyHealth project
    Awarding body: World Rugby (previously International Rugby Board)
    Project aim: to better understand the long‐term physical and psychological effects of rugby
  • IRB/AUT IRB/AUT/USC/UOA rugby player equipment review
    Awarding body: World Rugby
    Project aim: to identify products suitable for playing rugby by those who are visually impaired, have hearing disabilities or require prosthetics.


  • AUT University Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences New Emerging Research Team Award in 2012 and commended in the Vice-Chancellor Research Awards

Conducted scientific studies to create evidence

Epidemiology analysis

We have determined the extent of the problem, nature and causes via epidemiology analysis using the ACC national database and participant cohort studies:

  • King D, Hume PA, Hardaker N, Pearce A, Cummins C, Clark T. Traumatic brain injuries in New Zealand: National Insurance (Accident Compensation Corporation) claims from 2012 to 2016. Journal Neurological Science. 2019;399:61–8.
  • Theadom A, Starkey NJ, Dowell T, Hume PA, Kahan M, Feigin V. Sports-related brain injury in the general population: An epidemiological study. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2014.
  • Theadom A, Mahon S, Hume P, Starkey N, Barker-Collo S, Jones K, Majdan M, Feigin VL.  Incidence of sports related traumatic brain injury of all severities: A systematic review. Neuroepidemiology, 2020, 54(2):192-199.
  • King DA, Hume PA, Clark TN, Foskett A, Barnes MJ. Training injury incidence in amateur women’s rugby union in New Zealand over two consecutive seasons. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2021;24:544–8.
  • King DA, Hume PA, Cummins C, Clark TN, Gisanne C. Concussion incidence for two levels of senior amateur rugby league in New Zealand, 2008-2011. Sports Medicine Rehabilitation Journal. 2018;3(1):Article 1026.
  • Theadom A, Feigin VL, Reith FCM, Maas AIR. Epidemiology of Traumatic Brain Injury. In Youmans and Winn (Eds) Neurological Surgery, 8th Edition, 2020.

Retired player studies

We have conducted retired player studies that have gained international media attention and have helped changed policy and practice internationally:

  • Hume PA, Lewis G, Theadom A, Brown S, Quarrie K, Raftery M, et al. Player Fact Sheet: World Rugby/NZ Rugby/Auckland University of Technology RugbyHealth project. Auckland: Sport Performance Research Institute New Zealand, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand; 2015 12th May 2015.
  • Hume PA, Theadom A, Lewis G, Quarrie K, Brown SR, Hill R, et al. A comparison of cognitive function in former rugby union players compared to former non-contact sport players and the impact of concussion history. Sports Medicine. 2016;47(6):1209-20.
  • Lewis GN, Hume PA, Stravric V, Brown S, Taylor D. NZ Rugby Health study: Motor cortex excitability in retired elite and community level rugby players. New Zealand Medical Journal. 2017;130(1448):34-44.
  • Hind K, Konerth N, Entwistle I, Theadom A, Lewis G, King D, et al. Cumulative sport-related injuries and longer term impact in retired male elite- and amateur-level rugby code athletes and non-contact athletes: A retrospective study. Sports Medicine. 2020;20(11):2051-61.
  • Hind K, Konerth N, Entwistle I, Hume PA, Theadom A, Lewis G, et al. Mental health and wellbeing of retired elite and amateur rugby players and non-contact athletes and associations with sports-related concussion: the UK Rugby Health Project. Sports Medicine. 2021.

Biomechanics studies to quantify head impacts

We have conducted a series of biomechanics studies to quantify head impacts during training and play for men and women, children and adults, amateur to professional players:

  • King DA, Hume PA, Gissane C, Kieser D, Clark T. Head impact exposure from match participation in women’s rugby league over one season of domestic competition. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2018;21(2):139-46.
  • King DA, Hume PA, Gissane C, Clark T. Head impacts in a junior rugby league team measured with a wireless head impact sensor: An exploratory analysis. Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics. 2017;19(1):13-23.
  • King D, Hume PA, Clark T, Gisanne C. Does playing away from home influence the number and severity of impacts in amateur rugby union players: Analyses by home/away, won/lost and first/second season halves. Annal Sports Med Res. 2020;7(3):7.
  • King D, Hume PA, Cummins C, Gissane C, Clark T, Hecimovich M. Head impact biomechanics: Comparison between sports and genders. Journal of Science & Medicine in Sport. 2018;36:S3-4.
  • King DA, Hume PA, Gissane C, Clark T. Similar head impact acceleration measured using instrumented ear patches in a junior rugby union team during matches in comparison with other sports. Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics 2016;18(1):65–72.
  • King DA, Hume PA, Gissane C, Clark T. Head impacts in a junior rugby league team measured with a wireless head impact sensor: An exploratory analysis. Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics. 2017;19(1):13-23.
  • King DA, Hume PA, Brughelli M, Gissane C. Instrumented mouthguard acceleration analyses for head impacts in amateur rugby union players over a season of matches. Am J Sport Med. 2015;43(3):614-24.

Studies with women

We have conducted studies specifically with women:

  • King D, Barnes M, Hume PA, Cummins C, Pearce AJ, Clark TN, et al. Match and training injuries in women’s rugby union: A systematic review of published studies. Sports Medicine. 2019.
  • King DA, Hume PA, Clark TN, Hind K, Hardaker N. Concussion reporting and return to play over two years for an amateur women’s rugby union team in New Zealand Advances in Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. 2020;2020(4).
  • King DA, Hume PA, Gissane C, Kieser D, Clark T. Head impact exposure from match participation in women’s rugby league over one season of domestic competition. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2018;21(2):139-46.
  • King DA, Hume PA, Gissane C, Clark T. Impacts to the head in a premier one domestic netball team measured with a wireless head impact sensor over a domestic competition season: an exploratory analysis. J Orthopaedic Research and Surgery. 2021;2(2).
  • King D, Hume PA, Cummins C, Clark T, Gissane C, Hecimovich M. Head impact exposure comparison between male and female amateur rugby league participants measured with an instrumented patch. Journal of Sports Medicine and Therapy. 2019;4:024-37.

Studies on mTBI from violence

We have conducted studies on mTBI from violence including IPV and prison:

  • Mitchell T, du Preez E, Theadom A. An intervention to improve coping strategies in adult male prisoners with a history of Traumatic Brain Injury: A pilot randomised clinical trial. Clinical Rehabilitation. Clin Rehabilitation, 2021.
  • Mitchell T, Theadom A, DuPreez E. Prevalence of traumatic brain injury in a male adult prison population and links with offence type. Neuroepidemiology, 48(3-4):164-170. DOI: 10.1159/000479520. IF: 2.9
  • Durrant M, Theadom A, O’Donovan C. Practitioners’ knowledge and understanding of acquired brain injury in the context of intimate partner violence in New Zealand.  Dissertation in AUT scholarly commons.

Evaluation of mTBI assessment, monitoring and treatment tools

We have conducted studies to evaluate mTBI assessment, monitoring and treatment tools in collaboration with clinicians:

  • McGeown J, Kara S, Crosswell H, Borotkanics R, Hume PA, Quarrie K, et al. Predicting sport-originated brain injury recovery trajectory using initial clinical assessment findings: a retrospective cohort study. Sports Medicine. 2019.
  • King D, Hume PA, Hind K, Clark T, Cummins C. Effect of selective head-neck cooling on signs and symptoms of sport originated brain injury in amateur sports: A pilot study. Biomed J Sci & Tech Res 2019;21(4):16062-70.
  • King DA, Hume PA, Tommerdahl M. Use of the Brain-Gauge somatosensory assessment for monitoring recovery from concussion: A case study. Journal of Physiotherapy Research. 2018;2(1):13.
  • King D, Hume PA, Cummins C, Tommerdahl M, Pearce AJ, Clark T, et al. Use of the King-Devick test and Brain Gauge for the management of concussion. Journal of Science & Medicine in Sport. 2018:S38-9.
  • King DA, Hume PA, Clark TN, Hind K. Use of RESTQ-Sport and King-Devick test to monitor changes during recovery of concussion in an amateur women’s rugby union team. JSM Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2021;5(1):9.
  • Sharma A, Hind K, Hume PA, Singh J, Neary JP. Neurovascular coupling by functional near infra-red spectroscopy and sport-related concussion in retired rugby players: The UK rugby health project. Front Hum Neurosci 2020;14(42).
  • King DA, Hume PA, Clark TN, Pearce AJ. Use of the King-Devick test for the identification of concussion in an amateur domestic women’s rugby union team over two competition seasons in New Zealand. Journal of Neurological Sciences. 2020;418.
  • King D, Hume PA, Foskett A, Barnes MJ. Changes in the stress and recovery of injured versus non-injured amateur domestic women’s rugby union team players over a competition season in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Sports Medicine. 2020;46(2):74-83.
  • Stuart C, Reid D, Theadom A, Fulcher M, Hardaker N. Knowledge and Management of Sport-related Concussion in Primary Care in New Zealand. NZ Medical Journal
  • Pedersen, M, Jackson, G. D., Makdissi, M., Parker, D. M., Curwood, E. K., Farquharson, S., Connelly, A., Abbott, D. F., & McCrory, P. Functional brain effects of acute concussion in Australian rules football players. Journal of Concussion. 2019;3:2059700219861200.
  • Pedersen, M., Makdissi, M., Parker, D. M., Barbour, T., Abbott, D. F., McCrory, P., & Jackson, G. D. Quantitative MRI as an imaging marker of concussion: Evidence from studying repeated events. European Journal of Neurology. 2020;27(10):e53–e54.
  • Pedersen, M., Verspoor, K., Jenkinson, M., Law, M., Abbott, D. F., & Jackson, G. D. Artificial intelligence for clinical decision support in neurology. Brain Communications. 2020;2(2):fcaa096.

Brain Injury Screening Tool (BIST) development

We have developed the Brain Injury Screening Tool (BIST) with a collaborative group of researchers and clinicians, and worked with industry partners to integrate the BIST into the patient management systems of NZ general practitioners through a national portal. The tool is being piloted within GP clinics, hospital inpatients, Emergency Departments, Accident and Medical Clinics and prison health care teams in collaboration with ACC and Department of Corrections.A non-interactive is available free of charge globally.

  • Theadom A, Hume PA, Siegert R, Mahon S, Bastos Gottgtroy R, Fernando K, et al. Brain Injury Assessment Tool (BIST) A guide to traumatic brain injury assessment. ©2020 Auckland University of Technology. BIST (Brain Injury Screening Tool) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 International License. CC BY-ND.
  • Theadom A, Hardaker N, Bray C, Siegert R, Henshall K, Forch K, et al. The Brain Injury Screening Tool (BIST): Tool development, factor structure and validity. PLOSONE. 2021;16(2):e0246512.
  • Shaikh N, Theadom A, Siegert R, Hardaker N, King D, Hume PA. Rasch Analysis of The Brain Injury Screening Tool (BIST) in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Research Square. 2021:16.

Evaluated the evidence and provided scientific opinion on issues

Literature reviews to evaluate the evidence

We have conducted a series of literature reviews to evaluate the evidence:

  • McGeown JP, Hume PA, Theadom A, Quarrie K, Borotkanics R. Nutritional interventions to improve neurophysiological impairments following traumatic brain injury: A systematic review. Journal of Neuroscience Research. 2020:1-32.
  • Brady M, Mahon S, Theadom A, Hume PA, editors. Mild traumatic brain injury outcomes in sports related and non-sports related injuries: A systematic literature review. Sports Medicine New Zealand; 2020; Tauranga.
  • Theadom A, Mahon S, Hume PA, Starkey N, Barker-Collo S, Jones K, et al. Incidence of sports related traumatic brain injury of all severities: A systematic review. Neuroepidemiology. 2019.
  • King D, Hume PA, Gissane C, Clark T. Semi-professional rugby league players have higher concussion risk than professional or amateur participants: A pooled analysis. Sports Medicine. 2017;47(2):197-205.
  • King D, Hume PA, Gissane C, Brughelli M, Clark T. The influence of head impact threshold for reporting data in contact and collision sports: Systematic review and original data analysis. Sports Medicine. 2016;46(2):151-69.

Opinion articles and conference keynotes on key issues

We have provided opinion articles and conference keynotes on key issues:

  • Quarrie K, Brooks J, Burger N, Hume PA, Jackson S. Facts and values: On the acceptability of risks in children’s sport, using the example of rugby. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2017;51:1136–41.
  • Hume PA, King D, McGeown J, Theadom A. Sports-related concussion, mild traumatic brain injury or sport-originated brain injury (SOBI): A more useful term. New Zealand Journal of Sports Medicine. 2019;45(2):64-7.
  • Hume PA, Quarrie K. SOBI (Sport Originated Brain Injury) and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy): Keynote Invited Presentation.  Sport and Exercise Science New Zealand; 25-27th November; Christchurch: SESNZ; 2020.
  • Hume PA, Bussey M, McGeown J, Draper N, Quarrie K. Invited Concussion Panel: Should contact in sports be limited for children to reduce SOBI?  Sport and Exercise Science New Zealand; 25-27th November; Christchurch: SESNZ; 2020.
  • Hume PA, Hardaker N, Kara S, Whatman C, Reid D, Fulcher M, et al., editors. Sprains, strains and sobi: can physiotherapists have an increased role in sport originated brain injury assessment and management? Sports Medicine New Zealand 2019 Conference; 2019; Dunedin: Sports Medicine New Zealand.
  • Faulkner J, Theadom A, Snell D, Invited Workshop. Innovative Clinical Tools to Support the Management of Concussion from Recognition to Rehabilitation. ASSBI 6th Pacific Rim Conference, Perth Australia (online), 2021
  • Theadom A, Initial concussion recognition and predictors of recovery. RMSANZ Virtual Snapshots 2021, 31 July –1 August 2021.
  • Theadom A. Mild brain injuries across different contexts: What are the long-term impacts and how can we prevent them? Active+ Conference, June 2021. Auckland NZ
  • Theadom A. A brief decision support tool to facilitate assessment and management of mild TBI. GP21 Conference, 2021, Wellington, NZ
  • McCallum S, Meehan L, Pacheco G, Theadom A. Long-term social impacts of mild traumatic brain injury. New Zealand Association of Economists June 2021. Wellington NZ.

Our Research Collaborators

Aaron Uthoff

Auckland University of Technology

Aaron Uthoff RCRG Bio Oct 2021

Caryn Zinn

Auckland University of Technology

Caryn Zinn RCRG Bio Feb 2018

Chris WhatmanAuckland University of Whatman RCRG bio Dec 2021
Danielle SalmonNew Zealand Salmon RCRG Bio Dec 2021

Doug King

Hutt Valley Hospital, AUT

Doug King  RCRG Bio Mar 2017

Francesco Sella

University of Waikato

Francesco Sella RCRG Bio Sept 2019

Isaac Carlson

Accident Compensation Corporation

Isaac Carlson  RCRG Bio Mar 2018

Kobus Du PlooyUniversity of Du Plooy Bio Nov 2022

Lesley Ferkins

Auckland University of Technology

Lesley Ferkins RCRG Bio Mar 2018

Mat Blair

Otago Polytechnic

Mat Blair RCRG Bio Oct 2021

Michael Hamlin

Lincoln University

Mike Hamlin RCRG Bio 2021 Oct 2021

Natalie Hardaker

Accident Compensation Corporation

Natalie Hardaker RCRG Bio May 2022

Patria Hume

Auckland University of Technology

Patria Hume RCRG Bio Aug 2017

Samantha Holdsworth


Samantha Holdsworth RCRG Bio Mar 2017

Simon WaltersAuckland University of Walters RCRG Bio Dec 2021

Fiona Wilson

Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin

Fiona Wilson  RCRG Bio Nov 2017

Peter Francis

Institute of Technology Carlow

Peter Francis RCRG Bio Mar 2016

Answorth A. Allen

Hospital for Special Surgery

Answorth Allen  RCRG Bio Apr 2017

Harvey Levin

Baylor College of Medicine Faculty

Harvey Levin RCRG Bio Mar 2019

John Nauright

University of North Texas

John Nauright RCRG Bio Mar 2018

Richard Shen-Ying Ma

Missouri Orthopaedic Institute, Columbia

Richard Ma RCRG bio Nov 2021

Scott Brown

Auckland University of Technology

Scott-Brown-RCRG-Bio Oct 2021

Victor Lopez Jr

USA Rugby

Victor Lopez-RCRG-Bio Oct 2021

Using research to inform best practice

The Rugby Codes Research Group (RCRG) is part of our interdisciplinary research groups with a common aim: to bring together expertise from varied sport-related disciplines to inform best practice for organisations, teams and players around the world.

RCRG membership

To become a member download this template RCRG Bio Template Example and send to who is the Chair of the Membership panel.

Profiles of our members from 30+ countries