Are Instrumented Mouth Guards the future?

By International Rugby Players

Traditionally mouth-guards, or gum shields depending what part of the world you’re in, were there to keep safe your pearly-whites. 

In recent times however, instrumented mouth-guards (IMGs) have emerged as a promising technology not just to help prevent injury to teeth but also monitor head impacts and head acceleration events that can potentially be used to improve performance management, as well as drive preventative strategies.

IMGs are equipped with sensors that can measure the impact of blows. These sensors can provide valuable information to coaches and medical staff about the severity of impacts and help identify players who may need to be assessed for concussion or other injuries.

They also have the ability to potentially detect concussion. The technology will allow coaches and medical staff to quickly identify players who may have suffered a head injury and take appropriate action to manage their recovery.

Along with that they can also provide coaches with real-time data on impacts during games and training, allowing them to adjust training and game strategies accordingly; a positive for player safety and welfare.  

So is this new technology the answer for the game?

Wallabies team doctor and International Rugby Players board member Dr.Sharron Flahive says the data already captured by the mouth-guards shows some interesting information.

“What we find is that a lot of the data shows that most of these events are quite low level, akin to jumping on a trampoline or being on a roller coaster. There are actually very few events that are at higher linear acceleration.

“What we are going to be able to do is quantify these events over the course of a game and training… and how that then correlates to concussion. We can also see how these forces relate to the height of the tackle as an example of even susceptibility to concussion.

“I mean, it could even get to a stage where we have live data such that you could see an event and it would give us the opportunity to remove a player for an HIA assessment on the basement basis of the data,” she added.

Overall, instrumented mouth-guards have the potential to revolutionize rugby. International Rugby Players Head of High-Performance and Player Welfare, Conrad Smith says the holistic picture they can give players and coaches is where the magic lies.

“It’s an exciting development. I think we can do a lot more in making sure that players use the mouth guards and understand the benefits, but certainly the benefits are significant,” said the former All Black.

“And it’s not just in measuring head acceleration events as they relate to concussions, but load in general and the amount of work that players get through. The reliance currently is on GPS units, and they’re great at measuring running distances, but what these mouth guards provide is a measure of contact events, not just the ones that result in high impact, but general load with the, amount of rucks hit and tackles made.

“It’s actually giving a great picture of the load that a player goes through in a week and a year. And the goal is to use that to then limit or control that load,” he added.

“On a practical level, the data from these mouthguards could mean that if a certain training drill is delivering high numbers of head acceleration events, then the coaches will have to change the drill or get rid of it completely. For individual players, if they’ve had high numbers from a game then coaches will rest them from contact events at training. In the past we’ve done this by ‘feel’ but these mouthguards are providing some data to support this.”

International Rugby Players

/ Contributor

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