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World Rugby unveil new smart mouthguard technology for HIAs

By Josh Raisey
Hugo Keenan of Ireland receives medical treatment and before leaving the pitch for a HIA after a tackle by Freddie Steward of England, resulting in a red card for Freddie Steward, during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and England at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

World Rugby have announced that new smart mouthguard technology will be used this month in the women’s WXV to aid with the Head Injury Assessment (HIA) process before being rolled out across the game in January 2024.

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Players will be required to wear the mouthguards, supplied by Prevent Biometrics, in matches to deliver real-time alerts of high acceleration events to the independent matchday doctor, who can take players off to be assessed even if they have not shown any symptoms. The mouthguards will also be required in training to improve player welfare and allow coaches to tailor the training loads for their players.

If a player does not wear the smart mouthguard and they are suspected of having been involved in a potential concussion event, then they will be removed from the field and will not return. They will then undertake a HIA 2 and HIA3, as per the current return to play protocols.

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Eddie Jones post-match presser after final match

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Eddie Jones post-match presser after final match

World Rugby see the mouthguard as an addition to the current concussion diagnosis protocols, not a replacement. The concept is that the technology will pick up significant head accelerations that might otherwise be missed. The expectation from the data is that an average of one additional HIA will be identified and acted upon per game.

When an alert comes up, the match-day doctor will then communicate said alert to that match-day officials, in the same manner as any suspected concussive event would be communicated. Viewers at home will be none the wiser.

In order to support unions, competitions and clubs in adopting this new technology, World Rugby are investing an initial €2 million.

The HIA process already has a 90 per cent success rate in diagnosing concussion, and the smart mouthguards will further help that process.

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This new innovation has been recommended by World Rugby’s independent Concussion Working Group and comes after research into ice hockey in the United States showed that mouthguards reduced the risk of concussion by 20 per cent.

World Rugby Chief Medical Officer Eanna Falvey said: “The latest scientific research and expert opinion is telling us one thing – reduce the forces players experience on their heads at all levels of the game. That is exactly what we’re doing.

“The advances in smart mouthguard technology mean elite players will be better cared for than ever before. We are taking smart mouthguards out of the realm of medical research and putting them into the world of everyday performance management to continue to manage player welfare in the best way possible.”

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “We have always said that World Rugby never stands still on player welfare. This latest phase of welfare-related announcements reinforces the fact that as technology and science-based evidence progresses, we progress alongside it.

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“With our latest report suggesting that rugby players lead healthier, happier lives, and participation in rugby up 11 per cent around the world since 2022, people can choose to play rugby knowing that they stand to enjoy all the benefits of this amazing game whilst being as safe as they possibly can be.”

 

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