Former rugby player Ben John on how concussion forced him to leave the game he loved

The Six Nations is back and these days rugby or any contact sport comes hand in hand with the question of player safety.

Engineers at Cardiff University are currently developing a new padding for NFL helmets which they say could also be used in scrum caps to help reduce head injuries.

This is something former Ospreys centre, Ben John, is welcoming.

He was forced to end his rugby career after suffering with concussion.

Former rugby player Ben John suffered a series of head injuries Credit: Huw Evans Agency

He now works as a personal trainer in London, but recalls struggling with headaches, bright lights and blurred vision.

I used to struggle with headaches, bright lights, my vision used to go blurry. I wasn't great with sleep. That was in initial three to four weeks. The bigger knocks, the longer it took me to recover.

Benjamin John, former Osprey player
Ben John, Ospreys centre ended his rugby career after a series of head injuries Credit: Huw Evans Agency

Researchers at Cardiff University's School of Engineering are now developing a material for American Football helmets that aims to help reduce head injuries.

They say the same material could be used in rugby scrum hats, riding helmets or bike helmets.

There's potential for a slimmed down version of this material to be introduced into scrum caps. World Rugby's stance is that they're more inclined to change how players play the game as opposed to introducing new equipment. But it's our role as academics to try and introduce new materials and new opportunities for governing bodies, such as World Rugby, to make the game as safe as possible.

Dr Peter Theobald, Cardiff University
Engineers at Cardiff University are developing new padding for NFL helmets to help reduce head injuries Credit: itv wales

Ben feels another way to improve player welfare would be to reduce the length of the rugby season. He says there should be more time for players to recover from injuries in training and games.

World Rugby says player welfare is a top priority, and that it is committed to "evidence-based injury-prevention strategy" for all levels of participation.

With training accounting for more than 85 per cent of player load in elite rugby, World Rugby has this year introduced an individual Player Load Passport for all teams competing at Rugby World Cup 2019 as part of a global awareness initiative of the impact of managing training load on injury-prevention. With regard to concussion, the 2018/19 season is the first since the introduction of the HIA process that the incidence of concussion has reduced across the major elite adult competitions around the globe. The RFU PRISP study has revealed a 14.3% drop in concussion rates, suggesting that awareness, education and the management of the injury is effective. This trend is replicated across the spectrum of elite competitions, despite increased ball in play time meaning more tackle/rucks, which account for 76% of concussions in the game.

Spokesperson, World Rugby