Technology could help reduce impact of head knocks

The danger to Rugby League players from head knocks could be mitigated by a piece of technology that appears to be deceptively simple, but which transmits information to club coaching and medical staff during matches and training sessions to guide them on when a player’s head reaction suggests he or she should be removed from the field.

Sports technology company Sports & Wellbeing Analytics (SWA) have developed a system that carries the brand name PROTECHT, which accurately measures the frequency and intensity of any impact an athlete receives to their head?

The technology, which is already used by St Helens and Salford Red Devils, works by collecting objective surveillance data through a standard rugby mouthguard, which is then sent in real-time to touchline staff, medics and coaches to help inform player welfare decisions and protocols.

The technology was developed specifically with rugby in mind and is also being used in rugby union, by the likes of Premiership champions Harlequins and Gloucester Rugby.

SWA chief executive Chris Turner is convinced that the technology can play a significant role in protecting players in high-speed collision games, while he cites evidence that using the technology has persuaded coaches to reduce the amount of direct contact in training.

“The electronic sensors mean that we can see all the impacts are occurring to a player, whether the coaching staff see them or not,” he said.

“In rugby, not everything is seen with the naked eye. Sometimes a player gets a whiplash that is bigger than the tackle itself when a player hits the ground.

“The sideline can then intervene when they otherwise might not do.

“You can also look at the cumulative effect of what happens to each player during a game.

“It allows us to take all the data and build up norms, so that we can look at a player and contrast what normally happens with what the actual load is during a game.

“We are seeing that some teams are easing the training load on players, who are then fresher and less injury prone when it comes to game day.

“All clubs use GPS technology these days to give them feedback on player performances and this system is a logical next step, although I would emphasise that the data it provides has to be interpreted by a sports scientist who understands the meaning of the data.”

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