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The innovative rugby mouthguard that also safeguards head injuries

The device is equipped with an impact sensor and will become mandatory equipment in 2024

Exeter Chiefs
Players from England's Exeter Chiefs professional rugby club wearing Intelligent Mouthguard devices.Preventbiometrics.com

The recently concluded Rugby World Cup marked a historic moment as South Africa clinched their fourth championship title. However, player safety remains a concern for World Rugby, the sport’s governing body. To address the risks of brain damage, concussions and even Parkinson’s disease, World Rugby has gradually implemented several changes to improve player safety. Starting in 2024, the use of the sensor-equipped Intelligent Mouthguard will be mandatory so players can monitor and mitigate the impact of blows to the head.

The product is made by Prevent Biometrics, an American company specializing in physical impact monitoring technology for sports. World Rugby has been collaborating with this company for three years. Their mouthguard has been partially used in the English League and was also provided to players during the 2022 Women’s World Cup. The device sends a Bluetooth message to a team’s medical staff to alert them when a player suffers a dangerous impact. After an alert, the athlete must be evaluated for a concussion and receive clearance before returning to play. Mouthguards are considered the most accurate solution for measuring impact because the upper jaw is connected to the skull. According to Prevent Biometrics, their device allows for “individualized” player care by recording all head impacts, both in training and matches. The invention was tested on approximately 600 players in New Zealand before World Rugby mandated its use.

Dr. Alberto Delgado, who works with the Spanish women’s rugby team, believes this device will have a positive impact and will help detect injuries that often go unnoticed. “All impact information is transmitted to a monitoring device, and if the severity threshold is exceeded (55 grams for women, 60 grams for men), an automatic alarm is immediately issued.”

Sports Business Journal reported that after World Rugby approved the results of tests and pilot implementations, it modified the sport’s regulations and invested approximately $2.4 million to make the devices mandatory. The rugby federation also conducted research with multiple universities to test the device, but no independent studies exist yet. While Delgado is confident the device is a step in the right direction, he thinks the pilot implementation during the 2022 Women’s World Cup was a bit rushed and caught his team off guard.

The Intelligent Mouthguard also enables the collection of player data to analyze collision frequency and severity, information that can drive technological advancements. World Rugby’s decision to mandate the mouthguard was motivated in part by numerous lawsuits brought by former players alleging negligence that led to brain damage and other physical conditions.

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