Judgement Day: Players use new gum shield intended to monitor concussion

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PROTECHT: A gum shield which helps detect concussions?
Guinness Pro14: Cardiff Blues v Ospreys
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Date: Saturday, 27 April Kick-off: 17:15 GMT
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru and updates on the BBC Sport website

A high-tech gum shield could help monitor concussion in rugby, its Welsh developers hope.

The technology allows head impact data to be transmitted immediately to medical staff on the sidelines.

Ospreys and Cardiff Blues players will wear the mouth guards in a crucial Pro14 rugby match at Cardiff's Principality Stadium on 27 April.

"We see this as vital for the game," said Sport and Wellbeing Analytics (SWA) chief executive Chris Turner.

The Swansea-based company (SWA) and researchers at Swansea University have been working on the micro-chipped mouth guards for two and a half years and Ospreys have been using them in competitive games since October 2018.

SWA have partnered with manufacturers OPRO to create the mouth guards.

The technology is known as the PROTECHT system that monitors and manages head impact data.

A microchip in the mouth guard sends messages to a computer which registers and stores information on individual players to determine the effect of blows to the head.

The information could prompt more rapid intervention by medical staff during games and provide more detailed medical information in training.

Swansea-based company Sport and Wellbeing Analytics and researchers at Swansea University have been working on the micro-chipped mouth guards for two and a half years
Swansea-based company Sport and Wellbeing Analytics and researchers at Swansea University have been working on the micro-chipped mouth guards for two and a half years

Ospreys and Blues players first wore the equipment in a Pro14 match last January.

"We are trying to make it as unobtrusive, but the information coming out is going to be crucial," said Turner.

"It is going to help players be sure they will be looked after properly so the player welfare aspect is important.

"Training, where a lot of the injuries occur, is also now able to be monitored with a greater precision than it has before."

The product is still being trialled, but there are long-term plans to introduce it at grassroots level if it is officially ratified.

"We have been developing this to make sure we get the science aspect right," said Turner.

"Embedding it in a mouth guard has taken work and we have worked a lot with the players so they are comfortable with the technology.

"There are a lot of challenges to make sure we get the sensors working in real time over the distances in all weathers.

"We have to start with the elite game because that will give us the credibility to take it down to the grassroots."

A player's view

George North and Tomos Williams
George North in action for Ospreys against Cardiff Blues

Ospreys, Wales and British & Irish Lions wing George North suffered a series of concussions starting in 2015 leading to an enforced period of time out of the game.

"From a players' point of view it's a massive step forward," he said.

"It is reassuring when you think how much concussion has been documented over the last three or four seasons.

"The treatment has come on leaps and bounds and this information adds another dimension along with the introduction of the neutral doctor.

"It is not going to change any of the protocols or the return-to-play process, but in terms of the fact they have an extra instrument to use wisely, that is a good thing.

"It allows you to monitor how many impacts you take and the build-up of contact before you get back into full training again."

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