World Rugby is introducing game-changing ‘smart’ mouthguards in the sport’s battle with concussion

  •  ‘Smart’ mouthguards help detect possible concussions
  •  The new technology is being used in the Six Nations
  •  Head injuries have become a huge topic in the sport

During a recent match at the Six Nations tournament, Scotland’s George Turner made history after being removed from the pitch because his smart mouthguard detected a dangerous collision.

In an effort to combat the rise of concussion rates, World Rugby has teamed up with Prevent Biometrics on a ‘smart’ mouthguard that it hopes will help to reduce concussions in the sport.

At first glance, the mouthguard looks like any other, but actually has clever technology embedded within it.

Sensors in the mouthguard measure impacts to the head and accelerations and decelerations. 

Current regulations state that for men’s players, an impact above 70g and 4,000 radians per second squared will recommend a Head Injury Assessment (HIA).

Game-changing smart mouthguards are being used in the Six nations tournament this year

Game-changing smart mouthguards are being used in the Six nations tournament this year

Speaking to MailOnline in 2022, Drew Goodger, Vice President of Customer Success at Prevent Biometrics, explained: ‘The mouthguards, from a structural standpoint, are really no different to your typical off-the-shelf mouthguard.

‘What they do have, from a technology standpoint, are an accelerometer and a gyroscope, which essentially measure the movement of your head, both from contact and non-contact scenarios.

‘You also have little components like batteries and Bluetooth transmitters that can capture that information and project it in real time to an iOS app.’

The Six Nations tournament is the highest-profile competition in which the new technology has been used, with a wider implementation of the mouthguards considered likely. 

World Rugby’s science and medical manager Lindsay Starling said the mouthguards have ‘really changed the game’.

‘There is a chance that repeated head impacts over a player’s life may contribute to long-term brain health, so we should be doing what we can to look after players’ brain health from all head-impact events, not just concussions,’ he said.

‘This allows us to quantify the frequency and magnitude of head impacts, which means we can act on big impacts, and over their career better manage their exposure to them, and ultimately reduce them.’

There are increasing concerns about the brain health of athletes in contact sports, because of the impact repeated trauma to the head can have on the brain.

The mouthguards measure impacts on the head and alert medical staff

The mouthguards measure impacts on the head and alert medical staff 

Head injuries have become a huge topic in the sport in recent years

Head injuries have become a huge topic in the sport in recent years

Last year the Rugby Football Union (RFU), which governs rugby union in England, announced the most drastic change to the game in recent memory.

From July 1, amateur players of all ages must tackle an opposition player at the waist or below in an attempt to reduce the number of serious head injuries.

Tackles to the chest will be made illegal at the levels of National One and below in the men’s game and Championship One and below in women’s rugby – but Australia won’t be following suit.

Meanwhile, the number of former rugby union players joining legal action against the game’s authorities continues to grow.

At the start of December, England’s 2003 World Cup winners Phil Vickery and Mark Regan and ex-Wales centre Gavin Henson were high-profile figures among 207 new names revealed in the concussion in rugby procedural hearing held at the High Court in London.

They joined the likes of Alix Popham, Carl Hayman, Steve Thompson and Michael Lipman in lodging legal action against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union after suffering neurological problems such as early onset dementia, motor neurone disease and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy which they claim are a result of their playing careers.

The players say they weren’t told rugby would cause such problems.

In total, there are now approximately 320 ex-rugby union professionals, semi-professionals and amateurs and 160 from rugby league involved in the legal action.

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