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| 2 minutes read

6 Nations 'Smart' Mouthguards - the Next Step for Better Head Injury Assessments?

In a first for rugby, the second round of this years’ 6 Nations saw a player removed from the field for a head injury assessment (HIA) after an alert triggered by a ‘smart’ mouthgaurd.

In the opening 20 minutes at Murrayfield, Scotland’s George Turner was removed from the pitch for a HIA after an alert triggered by his mouthguard alerted medical staff of a significant head acceleration event; brought about by a tackle made on France’s Charles Ollivon. Fortunately, the front rower passed his assessment and returned to the field for the remainder of the game.

World Rugby introduced the new technology ahead of this year’s tournament as part of their HIA protocols, which sends alerts of high forces to the independent match day doctor; with the recommendations that male players be taken off for HIA for collisions above a force of 70G and 4,000 radians per second squared, with a threshold 55G for female players. (To put a collision of 70+G into context, ex-F1 driver Romain Grosjean’s infamous crash in the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix registered an impact of 67G).

These measurements are provided by sensors, typically embedded within the mouthguard itself, to measure various impact parameters like acceleration, force, and direction. Some models may even incorporate gyroscopes and accelerometers for more detailed data. Bluetooth or other low-energy wireless technologies then transmit the sensor data to a smartphone app or a dedicated receiver unit on the side-lines.

While the Six Nations may be the highest profile tournament to trial the technology with HIA protocols, it is not the first, with trials being conducted during the WXV last Autumn. This also follows from various studies into the use of mouthguards in concussion detection carried out over the last few years.  

Aside from their use in head injury assessments, there have also been examples in the sport of teams using smart mouthguards to aid performance improvement, with Harlequins using data collected from their mouthguards to revamp, refine and reduce training loads during their Premiership title-winning season in 2021.

Therefore, the initial signs look very promising for rugby to take another big step regarding player welfare and the prevention of the potentially devastating effects of head injuries. Further encouraging signs have been shown from World Rugby, who plan on investing £1.7m to support implantation of the technology. 

As the world of wearable tech continues to rapidly evolve, it is fantastic to see sport’s governing bodies moving with the times and looking to how they can integrate such technologies, not only for performance improvement, but also for improved player/athlete welfare. 

Now if anyone knows of any wearable tech to help with the heartbreak of Saturday’s result, can you please let me know…


medical technologies, yes