‘Smart' mouthguards coming to rugby, amid brain injury legal action

By Will Trafford

'Smart' mouthguards Will be offered to players of the postponed 2021 Rugby World Cup, which kicks off in October / Supplied

World Rugby says it is going to start offering ‘smart’ mouthguards to players during the upcoming women's Rugby World Cup, set to be played in Aotearoa in October.

The news comes amid announcement of a class action lawsuit where almost 200 players allege the sport’s governing body failed to protect them from brain injuries, during their playing careers.

The new mouthguards will allow researchers to assess the frequency and magnitude of head contact and head accelerations, ‘providing reliable, objective measures of both match and training head impact and contact load’ according to World Rugby.

The technology has already been deployed to analyse head knocks in the National Football League (NFL) in the United States.

'Smart' mouthguards offered to players of the postponed 2021 Rugby World Cup, Will collect data on the frequency and magnitude of head contact during gameplay / Supplied

'Smart' mouthguards offered to players of the postponed 2021 Rugby World Cup will collect data on the frequency and magnitude of head contact during gameplay / Supplied

University of Otago academics will be tasked with analysing the data provided by the mouthguards, produced by US company Prevent Biometrics.

“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, World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said.

Just a week before the class action lawsuit which includes players like former Māori All Black Carl Hayman (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) was announced, Irish prop Jeremy Loughman was mistakenly permitted to rejoin a game against the Māori All Blacks after suffering concussion symptoms.

Gilpin said it was hoped the technology, which can provide live data to sideline doctors, will help reduce mistakes by officials, and the initiative comes "with the full support of all participating teams".

“We will never stand still when it comes to embracing the latest technology that has potential to advance player welfare in rugby.”

“Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle of our game and, through this study and others which will take place at the tournament, we will make Rugby World Cup the most advanced major sporting event ever staged when it comes to player welfare.”

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