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All Blacks could donate brains to concussion research after new research initiative

Families of top former All Blacks could look at donating their brains to researching the effects of head impacts in sport thanks to a new partnership between New Zealand's only human brain bank and a concussion foundation.

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In its first weekend, 73 senior matches in Christchurch saw three players issued the new card which sends players off with possible concussions. Source: 1 NEWS

The Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland is today launching a collaboration with the US-based Concussion Legacy Foundation to research sport's impact on both brain health and brain disease.

A new sector of the Centre will collect from donors who have played contact sports such as rugby, league, boxing and even the likes of football regardless of whether they've experienced conussions or not.

One disease in particular that researchers will look for are signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy [CTE], a neurodegenerative disease linked to repetitive brain trauma.

Families of New Zealand rugby players, including All Blacks, have indicated they are likely to donate to the research with former Junior All Black John "JJ" Williams already committing his brain.

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Dr Omalu says parents need to ask themselves whether they love rugby more than their kids. Source: Breakfast

Williams was knocked out multiple times playing first-class rugby as a lock in the 1970s and 1980s, which has led him to suffer from memory loss, mood swings and chronic headaches over the last decade.

The initiative here will be led by recognised neuroscientist and professor Sir Richard Faull with their work feeding into the Concussion Legacy Foundation's Global Brain Bank, which is led by CLF co-founder Dr Chris Nowinski.

Dr Nowinski said they were delighted to have New Zealand on board.

"We are thrilled that Sir Richard Faull and the impressive team at the University of Auckland Centre for Brain Research are joining the fight against CTE," said Nowinski.

"The global sports community needs top scientists studying our brains so we can learn to diagnose and treat this disease."

Dr Faull said it was only natural for New Zealand to join with over 9000 concussions in young Kiwis aged 19 or under reported in 2018 alone.

"With a large focus on contact sports in our culture, it's important that New Zealand is part of this global conversation and that our sports people are included and have access to relevant research results," Faull said.

"We join a growing global network of international brain banks in Australia, Brazil and the United States who offer this research. We're proud to partner with them to better understand the impact on the brain."