Independent studies using smart mouthguard data sheds light on playing rugby

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smart mouthguards in rugby
Photo: Sports Medicine (2023)

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has welcomed results from the largest ever study into the forces experienced by rugby players, using smart mouthguard technology. The results, which provide players and parents with greater clarity and confidence than ever before into the benefits and safety of rugby, are a first anywhere in world sport.

The Otago Community Head Impact Detection study (ORCHID) a joint project between World Rugby, Prevent Biometrics, New Zealand Rugby, Otago Rugby and the University of Otago that is published in Sports Medicineis the first independent, peer-reviewed findings into community rugby following almost two years of trailblazing research. The study measures over 17,000 separate head acceleration events across more than 300 players from senior rugby through to U13s level.

This work was followed by the Elite Extension of the ORCHID study in partnership with the Ulster University and Premiership Rugby. Further updates into the women’s community game are currently being prepared for peer review and publication.

Both studies used smart mouthguard technology, supplied by Prevent Biometrics, to understand the forces on the head experienced by players both in matches and training situations. The mouthguards measure g-forces which are experienced for less time than it takes to blink, using technology independently verified both in research laboratories and on the field of play.

At the elite level, in a world first, World Rugby announced in October that smart mouthguards will be added to the Head Injury Assessment (HIA) protocols from January 2024.

“We believe that smart mouthguard technology holds immense potential for advancing player safety and performance analysis in rugby and beyond,” Dr Melanie Bussey, A/Prof in Biomechanics at the University of Otago, said. 

“Our research has opened doors to a wealth of insights, and we are committed to further exploring this innovative field. We envision continued collaboration with World Rugby and other stakeholders to harness the full potential of this technology, driving advancements that will benefit players and the sport as a whole. The journey has just begun, and we are excited to embark on it.”

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