World Rugby introduces smart mouthguards to detect player head injuries in-game
World Rugby, as part of its new player welfare measures, has announced that it will introduce smart mouthguards to monitor potential head injuries. The device will send real time alerts of high acceleration events to pitch-side doctors. A player who experiences heavy head impact – above 70 G and 4,000 rad/s2 for men or 55 G and 4,000 rad/s2 for women – can be taken off and assessed, regardless of whether symptoms manifest or whether it is caught on camera.
Developed and patented by Prevent Biometric, the impact monitor mouthguard (IMM) can be custom moulded for each player and features wireless charging and syncing. It measures linear and angular acceleration, as well as location, direction and number of impacts. Each mouthguard is stored in a solo charging case that also sanitises it with a UV light. The Prevent Team Case holds and charges up to 27 solo cases together. Data and alerts from the devices can be accessed from a mobile app or web portal.
This technology will become an integral part of the Head Injury Assessment (HIA) protocol for diagnosing and managing head impact events. Elite rugby players will have to wear smart mouthguards in both training and matches, enabling coaches “to better tailor drills, tackle skills and training load for each individual player”. World Rugby is investing an initial €2 million to support adoption of the technology by various unions, competitions and clubs.
The vast majority of players already wear mouthguards, and all will be expected to switch to the new £250 smart ones, at World Rugby’s expense. Those who do not would risk being made to sit out the game in the event of an impact, based on a conventional assessment. World Rugby has already been testing the devices in several tournaments globally.
While smart mouthguards have existed for a few years, the ability to get live impact data and alerts during the match itself, rather than afterwards, is new. The technology will debut in this month’s WXV women’s rugby competition.
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