Rugby players have the risk of suffering concussions and other head injuries, just like participants in many other contact sports. Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries can arise from a variety of on-field incidents, including tackles, collisions, and inadvertent head knocks.
Recognizing the crucial need to promptly identify and address head injuries to prevent severe harm, the global governing body of rugby, World Rugby, is introducing smart mouthguards for all its players. These technologically advanced mouthguards will aid in the early detection of head injuries, specifically concussions, as reported by World Rugby. The organization has committed a substantial $2 million investment toward this initiative. The technology will see its first use in the inaugural WXV, the international women’s championship scheduled for this month. Subsequently, it will become an integral part of the league’s official head injury assessment process starting from January 2024.
Eanna Falvey, World Rugby’s chief medical officer, emphasized the importance of reducing forces experienced by players’ heads at all levels of the game based on the latest scientific research and expert opinion. The smart mouthguard technology marks a significant step forward in ensuring better care for elite players, shifting from medical research to everyday performance management to prioritize player welfare.
Rugby has long placed a strong emphasis on player safety, actively striving to minimize head injuries. Changes in rules, enhanced player education, and improved safety equipment underscore the league’s commitment to reducing injuries and, ideally, eliminating them altogether.
Rugby unions have enforced strict concussion recovery measures for players in addition to the smart mouthguards. In-depth medical examinations and required rest intervals are part of these protocols, which guarantee that players are fully recovered before playing again. Proactive steps are being taken to reduce potential risks, as concerns regarding the long-term effects of repeated concussions and subconcussive strikes on players’ brain health are being taken seriously.
World Rugby’s independent Concussion Working Group recommends mouthguards for all players at every level, citing previous studies in ice hockey that demonstrated a 20 percent reduction in concussion risk and tooth damage prevention. These innovative mouthguards now extend beyond protection, actively identifying potentially dangerous head injuries and alerting league doctors to investigate further when severe head injuries may have occurred. The integration of smart mouthguards exemplifies rugby’s commitment to player safety and the responsible management of head injuries in the sport.