World Rugby commits to mouthguard study to probe head injuries

·2-min read

World Rugby has committed to a new study involving the use of mouthguards that it believes could have a major impact on tackling the problem of head injuries.

The study in the community game, which will involve more than 700 male and female players from under-13s up to adult level, will be led by academics at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

The individually designed mouthguards are made by US firm Prevent Biometrics. World Rugby says they have an impact-recording accuracy of 95 percent.

Some professional rugby union and rugby league clubs in England and Wales have been using a different mouthguard created by Welsh company Sports and Wellbeing Analytics to monitor impacts in matches and training.

The same company is also conducting a trial at Premier League football clubs Liverpool and Manchester City.

World Rugby is facing a legal action from a group of nine former professional players suffering from neurological conditions, which they say are due to their exposure to head injuries during their careers.

The global governing body has introduced a new Head Contact Process to try to reduce the instances of head injuries caused by dangerous play, and hopes studies such as the one in New Zealand can help it gain further understanding about the differing force of impacts.

"Player welfare continues to be our top priority," said World Rugby's chief medical officer Eanna Falvey.

"By continually commissioning and partnering in research, we can make evidence-based decisions that will advance our understanding of injuries in the sport and more importantly, inform the moves that we can make to reduce them.

"We have been monitoring instrumented mouthguard technology for some time, and rapid advances in the sensitivity can now make it possible to distinguish between a head impact, a jump or shouting for example, which is important to the integrity of the research."

The announcement was made at World Rugby's Player Welfare and Laws Symposium.