RRIPG History

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The Rugby Research and Injury Prevention Group, Inc., established in 2009, was a result of the announcement of rugby’s inclusion in the Olympics, and formally the Metropolitan New York Rugby Football Union’s Medical Advisory Board (currently Empire GU RFU). The founder of the organization was Dr. Victor Lopez Jr. and was guided by Answorth A. Allen, MD.  This was aided at the time by several undergraduates at the time, Mr. Christopher M Black, MPH, Mr. Christian Victoria, BS, MPH (2018); Mr. Eric F. Soto, BS, ATC, FMS; Mr. Mario Ortega, BS, (RN 2018) and Mr. Nikolas Baret; and Dr. Douglas E. James, MD.

Due to Victor’s, history of playing many sports, including rugby since high school, he attended St. Francis Preparatory High School, and then with the Forest Hills RFC, eventually ending up with the NYC Village Lions RFC (one of the largest rugby teams in the NYC area), it was easy to see his direction. While attending New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, Victor rotated as a Research Intern in the Shoulder and Sports Medicine Service at the Hospital for Special Surgery over 2003, under Answorth A. Allen, MD (who covered international cricket, American baseball and basketball, and Olympic basketball) at Hospital for Special Surgery and the experience, strengthened his desire to understand the mechanism of sporting injuries.  This experience was fruitful, jointly creating many publications with their time.  He was fortunate to go overseas to Norway and interned under Dr. Lars Engebretsen (the International Olympic Committee, former scientific chair and now member of the Scientific Committee) at Ulleval Hospital, in Oslo, and the Oslo Sports Trauma Center (OSTRC), an IOC Research Centres for Prevention of Injury and Protection of Athlete Health (Centers of Excellence), where they were beginning to evolve the area of Sports Injury Prevention (https://www.amazon.com/Handbook-Sports-Medicine-Science-Prevention/dp/1405162449).  While gaining international and domestic understandings of sports, in Oslo and New York City, it was easy upon return, to see the want to understand the sport of U.S. rugby.

The RRIPG was then sponsored by Empire Geographic Union (GU) Rugby Football Union (RFU) and New England GU RFU, with their generosity to continue conducting our studies in the region and across the US with endorsement by USA Sevens LLC, and USA Rugby to attend their events and collect data. While collecting data at the 2010 tournaments, Mr. Black and Dr. Lopez met at the New Jersey 7s, began their collaboration on ideas and methodologies.  Christopher’s rugby playing for Rutgers Rugby, Princeton Athletic Club (PAC) Rugby and now Bayonne Bombers Rugby, reflects his enthusiasm of rugby.  The groups love of rugby notes the dedication of the group’s purpose.   Allen as our Orthopedic Advisor has lent his senior guidance and vast insight to multiple sports and was invaluable to understand the intricacies of sports medicine research and supported our decision to undergo our first study and methodology.  Our first publication together yielded one of the first manuscripts in the world on the sporting injuries in the emerging sport of Rugby Sevens: “Profile of an American Amateur Rugby Unon Sevens Series,” published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.  Since then, Mr. Sean Horan a strong domestic voice of rugby in America joined our ranks and guided us our Director of Rugby (2010-2016).  He was a former player and Rugby Seven-a-side Head Coach for Old Blue RFC and the former Empire GU/RFU Executive Director for Rugby Sevens in the Northeast United States.  He has been a pinnacle in driving our cause and helping spread the word to the players and administrators.  Then Dr. Arun T. Gupta (2012) joined us while an Interventional Spine Fellow at Hospital for Special Surgery, and now anchors our efforts in the north as our Northern, Medical Advisor, from the University of Calgary.  Dr. Richard Ma then joined us while the Sports Medicine Clinical Fellow at Hospital for Special Surgery, and now is our Mid-West, Co-Director, from the University of Missouri, Missouri Orthopaedic Institute and the Thompson Laboratory for regenerative Orthopedics.  Dr. Ma helped direct us into the area of translational research, to reach the public with our mission.  Dr. James L. Chen, the current UCSF Sports Medicine Fellowship Director then joined us, as our West Coast, Co-Director, as a fellow, and has helped direct us with regards to the large Northwest rugby playing population.  Mr. Michael Crafton, Esq, as chair of the RRIPG - Steering and Advisory Board (SAB), with his experience during his tenure as President of the Empire GU RFU, and now USA Rugby Congress member, has guided the RRIPG on advancement and progress in the evolving global expansion of rugby and its emergence as an Olympic Sport.  He is a current player for the Bayonne Bombers Rugby Club.  During this period, we were fortunate to have Mr. William (Bill) Middleton’s counsel and sound advice over these many years.

Our advances were noticed, and we began collaborating domestically with the global expert and current, World Rugby - Independent Concussion Expert, Dr Robert C. Cantu of Emerson Hospital, Emerson, MA.  Internationally, with Auckland University of Technology, and their Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (AUT/SPRINZ) with current relationships with World Rugby (formally the International Rugby Board).  This includes the foremost internationally acknowledged sports biomechanist and winner of the Geoffrey Dyson Award, Professor Patria A. Hume of Auckland University, and their Sports Performance Research Institute of New Zealand (AUT/SPRINZ), and Leader of the Rugby Codes Interdisciplinary Research Group (RCRG).