Rugby players probably suffer more head injury than almost any other sportsmen - indeed, it's estimated that almost 25% of rugby injuries involve a head injury.
There are two types of head injury, internal and external:
Internal: These can involve the skull, the blood vessels within the skull, even the brain. A concussion is a typical example of this.
External: These are usually scalp injuries - indeed, so common are these that rugby has its own system of blood replacements to allow bleeding players to be treated.
Although the external ones look more spectacular, as a player is lead from the field with blood pouring down his face, it is the internal damage that is of more concern.
Due to the high contact nature of the game, these cuts and concussions are almost inevitable, although many players now wear various types of soft helmets to reduce the risk. Symptoms of concussion include:
- Confusion about time, state of game, etc
- Balance problems
- Stunned or dazed
- Seeing stars or flashing lights
- Ringing in the ears
- Loss of field of vision
- Double vision
There are strict rules regarding return to playing following a concussion - players who have suffered a mild concussion cannot participate in contact sports for at least three weeks. This is because a further blow to the head within a few days or weeks can cause serious brain damage.