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VIDEO: Mouthguards key to World Rugby's concussion drive

SPOTLIGHT: World Rugby is going on a massive drive to tackle the problem of head injuries.


Apart from an educational video series by top international referee Wayne Barnes – who explainéd the Head Contact Process – World Rugby has committed to a new study involving the use of mouthguards.

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 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.

* Meanwhile Barnes explained the Head Contact Process and its role in changing behaviours among everyone involved in rugby.

Intentional acts of foul play to the head are still few and far between in professional rugby but with player welfare a number one priority, a new HCP has been introduced to try and reduce the number of instances even further.

Earlier this year, players, coaches, medics and match officials came together to devise a clear step-by-step framework that determines whether contact to the head was the result of an unavoidable/avoidable action and what the level of sanction should be, if any at all.

Barnes explained how the HCP now involves all contact to the head, not just high tackles, with examples of shoulder charges, head-on-head collisions and dangerous clear-outs and fend-offs, from different competitions around the world, all highlighted in a clear and concise video.

“This is being implemented to protect players. It is up to all of us to play our part in making the game safer and help reduce the risk of injuries. That’s why rugby is taking this seriously,” Barnes says.

As a collision-based, dynamic sport, rugby inevitably comes with an element of risk, but all stakeholders continue to work hard on delivering a game that is as safe as possible, and head injury prevention is top of that list.

When there is believed to have been an act of foul play to the head, the on-field official will ask a series of questions in accordance with the HCP guidelines:

  • Additional reporting by AFP



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