Prevent Biometrics’ instrumented mouthguards worn at Rugby World Cup

Prevent Biometrics’ instrumented mouthguards worn at Rugby World Cup

As the build-up continues, news out that the World’s top female rugby players are to wear smart mouthguards at the Rugby World Cup 2021 is a landmark agreement to help reduce concussions and introduce technology into the sport.

‘Smart’ instrumented mouthguards will be offered to all Rugby World Cup 2021 teams ahead of the October 8 tournament start in New Zealand.

Introduced to help better understand and reduce concussion in the women’s game, the initiative is part of a ground-breaking official supplier deal with Prevent Biometrics. New mouthguard technology, as verified in leading academic studies, will be offered to every player as part of a package of innovative welfare initiatives that will cement Rugby World Cup 2021 as the most advanced international sporting tournament ever held for player welfare.

The landmark initiative comes with the full support of all participating teams. At the time of the announcement, World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said: “We will never stand still when it comes to embracing the latest technology that has the potential to advance player welfare in rugby.

A view of a Prevent Biometrics mouthguard during the Women’s Rugby Day Head Impact Study Programme at Forsyth Barr Stadium on May 29, 2021 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/World Rugby via Getty Images)

“Rugby World Cup (RWC) is the pinnacle of our game and while this study and others will examine data at the tournament, we will make the RWC2021 the most advanced major sporting event ever staged when it comes to player welfare. Instrumented mouthguards have been shown in independent studies to produce the most accurate results and that is why World Rugby is so proud to be partnering with them [not just for Rugby World Cup 2021] but on a broad range of different initiatives”.

Prevent Biometrics’ instrumented mouthguards at RWC2021

The insights gained will help inform prevention measures specifically for women rugby players, underscoring World Rugby’s commitment to women-specific research and welfare initiatives under its six-point plan. The feedback gained during this pinnacle event will be combined with data from more than 1,000 junior, community, and elite players to give a detailed picture of what it looks like to play rugby ‘at all levels’.

Example: in New Zealand, an Otago University study has been researching the technology needed to record accurate biometric information which is then uploaded to display the impact and measure [from a baseline] the outcome and feedback from players wearing instrumented mouthguards.

University of Otago Concussion Study in Rugby

Now after six years of development, World Rugby has made the organization’s clear decision to rely more and more on technology, to support player welfare objectives. Gilpin commented, “when combined with the Otago Rugby community head impact detection and elite rugby studies, this data will provide an unprecedented picture of what it looks like to play and train rugby at every age group at every level in the game, and importantly offer invaluable insights as to where and how we can make the game even safer”.

Prevent Biometrics CEO Mike Shogren said: “It is an honour to be a part of the most advanced player welfare initiative in sports. We’re proud to work with an organization like World Rugby which understands that accurate head impact data is critical to unlocking the next frontier of player safety. At Prevent Biometrics, we look forward to the impact this event will have on sports safety globally.”

Mouthguards have always; and must continue to, be preventative aids for players. Other items that players can utilize include headgear and bodywear that can protect areas of concern in the modern game. Collisions and the contact area will be examined during the tournament, and when evidence is found of any possible head trauma, the use of instrumented mouthguards is just one tool at the disposal of match Doctors and player management over the RWC2021 and beyond.

Graduated return to play protocols all aimed to improve Game’s health

Fans all believe the game has become quicker, the player’s athletism has increased a massive amount, and thus the impacts are harder on the core. On top of that, the tackled area outcomes are affecting players’ physical health. Brain injuries can be sustained in as little as one game, where HIA (Head Injury Assessments) remove players for their own safety which for the modern player, should be seen as a godsend.

There are several other policies that will complement and align with the welfare initiatives for the global game.

One critical area of the game is how to manage the individual who has been diagnosed as suffering [any type] of brain trauma. Concussions, and the symptoms that demonstrate the effects and the ongoing issues related to a brain injury should be followed by a specific guideline on a graduated return to play (GRTP). That is a comparison to their baseline measures taken before the season began.

So from the time of injury, tests are performed and interviews conducted. Under the GRTP protocols, any player with a history of concussion or who has been removed from a match with obvious concussion symptoms will sit out of competitive action for a minimum of 12 days. Players without a history of concussion who subsequently undergo a Head Injury Assessment 3 (HIA 3) that unearths no abnormal findings, will be eligible to return on the seventh day after the occurrence of their injury.

Other elements can be used to improve the game’s health. The use of smart balls provides data for both broadcasters to provide viewers with information on ‘meters gained’ per kick and the speed of the ball out the hand. They are technical advances, like the instrumented mouthguards that will be used to protect players’ health over the long term.

As well, rugby union is recognizing the biological differences in men’s and women’s physiology. And in one area, in particular, women have a regular demand that men will never comprehend. The menstrual cycle is now being measured by teams to benefit players’ demands in terms of full training or, whether a reduced workload at certain dates can assist in managing the impact that an individual’s period has on her team.

Understanding that, as much as an instrumented mouthguard and return-to-play protocols will become standard across the game in time, there is still a lot to be learned in the sport. And especially during a Rugby World Cup where performance is the most outward factor yet, all the internal measures and resources required to get the best out of the competitors are so very critical. So look toward #RWC2021 to be one of the most advanced tournaments ever produced for the women’s game (and the game in general).

2021 Rugby World Cup – October 8 to November 12


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