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How mouthguard technology is aiding in the welfare of rugby players

Player care continues to take priority in a number of sports as we learn more about the welfare issues that athletes face, including the development of ground-breaking technology with ‘Intelligent Mouthguards’.

The traditional mouthguard has existed in sports for decades, including in boxing, rugby and American football but OPRO+ manufactured a mouthguard that would revolutionise the player welfare spectrum by not only offering a simple protective solution but gather data from the other impacts that athletes incur throughout a match.

Mike Lancaster, head of medical at Harlequins, spoke to the Daily Mail about the technology and how it was benefitting player care within the sport.

“This is a nice tool to make sure we're looking after our players' welfare and performance,” he started. “It allows us to build a pool of data on how much contact they tend to take in a week, per training session and in a game.”

The mouthguard has been smartly designed to ensure that as much accurate data can be recorded as possible. Each guard is individually shaped and contains a proximity sensor so that readings are only recorded when the mouthguard is in the mouth; data is transmitted to a laptop to provide real-time insight; a tri-axial gyroscope measures a change in rotational velocity upon impact; a tri-axial accelerometer measures the acceleration forces from an impact in a certain direction; a tri-axial magnetometer measures the direction and orientation of an impact; and the mouthguards can be charged wirelessly, through a case, which can last up to four hours.

The debate around head injuries in sports is being talked about now more than ever, especially in football, with the manufacturers of the mouthguard claiming that used over a 12-week to six-month period, it could deliver a ‘real understanding’ of the dangers to footballers’ brains and that they would be prepared to make one suitable for football players.

Lancaster added: “Even if someone lands heavily on their shoulder, there is still a G-force that goes through the head. It would be interesting to see the numbers they produce. What are the numbers from heading the ball? I think they'd be surprised by some of the areas and drills which yield interesting results. If a coach thinks it's a non-contact day, is that actually true?

“If two of our players run into each other or clip shoulders, it's surprising to see how much actual force the head or neck takes. That's an example of something we've picked up.

This gumshield allows us to marry it up with the footage - are they slow to get to their feet, are they staggering?

“One of the biggest changes is players understanding the need to look after themselves and each other. Ten years ago or more, players wouldn't flag things they do now. Football is probably is going through that.”

Author: Jake Wilkin