Rugby league to run game-wide mouthguard pilot to assess head impacts

Lee Mossop tackles Scott Taylor with his mouthguard showing
Salford's Lee Mossop, one of the clubs running their own trial, wears a mouthguard that will provide data

Super League clubs, the Rugby Football League and Leeds Beckett University are combining for a research project to quantify the sport's head injury risks.

The Instrumented Mouthguard Project will use data from the guards, which the majority of players already wear, to assess the impact of collisions.

It is intended to cover more than 1,200 players across men's and women's elite competition, and academy levels.

Different guards will be tested before the project starts in November 2021.

Salford Red Devils have already started running their own mouthguard pilot, as have Leeds Rhinos, but this is the first game-wide study project launched to look at the extent of concussion and other head injuries risks and how they might be managed.

The study's three main questions to answer are:

  • What are the head impact exposures across rugby league, to quantify player load profiles?
  • How does tackle technique and tackle height influence head impacts within rugby league?
  • What are the biomechanical mechanisms during concussion events in Super League?

Data not only relates to the tackled players but also the tackler themselves, as collisions can be as difficult to manage for both.

Professor Ben Jones, the lead researcher from Leeds Beckett University and the head of performance of the RFL's England Performance Unit, said: "In rugby league, as in other sports, there is widespread recognition of the need to maximise our understanding of the impact of head collisions.

"Mouthguard technology has recently developed rapidly, allowing valid measures of head impacts and movement.

"Instrumented mouthguards are already being used by some clubs in rugby league; however, a game-wide project will enable a better understanding across different levels of the sport with a bigger data set."

World Rugby launched a similar study in March which it hoped would be a "game-changer" in improving head injury detection and prevention.

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