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February 23, 2011: A test dummy performs an impact test at the Neurotrauma Impact Science Laboratory at the University of Ottawa.Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail

Aussie rules

Players in Australian rules football suffer concussions at a rate six to 15 times higher than those in U.S. football (the higher the level, the lower the rate; youth levels being the worst). The sport's top administrators decided to penalize hits to the head more severely, and to slow down the game to reduce the force of player collisions. Purists got angry – Real men don't play this way. Many others, who had turned away from the game because of its violent excesses, a lot of women included, are now watching. Attendance, TV ratings, even player registrations, are up substantially.

Rugby union

Rugby union football, realizing it, too, needed to slow down its games, decided to limit the number of substitutions each team is allowed. Forced to play more minutes in a game, players have had to pace themselves slightly, which has meant fewer collisions at higher speeds and more collisions at lower speeds. The number of concussions has been reduced.

Boxing, Taekwondo

Two sports are reversing the trend toward greater head safety: amateur boxing is considering eliminating its safety headgear. Taekwondo has increased the number of points awarded for a kick to the head, making the head a more desirable target. Olympic-level athletes, who know how to defend against uch kicks, have been little affected. Developing athletes, who don't, are delivering and being struck by more kicks to the head.

Synchronized swimming

Thirty per cent of synchronized swimmers at the elite level have had concussions.

CHL hockey

The Ontario Hockey League has introduced a two-game suspension for any player involved in 10 fights in a season. (This news brought rare laughter to this serious-minded conference).

The military

Sixty-eight per cent of all wounded U.S. soldiers returning from Afghanistan suffer from traumatic brain injury or post traumatic stress disorder.


Women soccer players are more prone to concussions than men soccer players.

Sports equipment

Football and hockey studies since 2008 show that recent improvements in helmets have had almost no impact on the number of concussions; mouth guards, improved or not, have no effect at all.