World Rugby has officially announced that rugby union is set to pioneer the use of smart mouthguards in elite matches as a proactive measure for managing concussions. This groundbreaking initiative will make its debut during the WXV, a novel women's rugby union competition, marking the first time that smart mouthguards are integrated into the sport. Following this initial introduction, the technology will be implemented worldwide starting in January 2024.
World Rugby is committing an initial investment of €2 million (£1.7 million) to facilitate the adoption of the new smart mouthguard technology, which is supplied by US-based Prevent Biometrics. These smart mouthguards will operate in real time, issuing alerts of high forces to an independent matchday doctor. This capability enables players who have experienced a significant acceleration event, even if they haven't exhibited symptoms or been observed by broadcast cameras, to be promptly removed from the game for assessment.
Dr. Eanna Falvey, Chief Medical Officer of World Rugby, explained, "The latest scientific research and expert opinion is telling us one thing – reduce the forces players experience on their heads at all levels of the game. That is exactly what we're doing. The advances in smart mouthguard technology mean elite players will be better cared for than ever before. We are taking smart mouthguards out of the realm of medical research and putting them into the world of everyday performance management to continue to manage player welfare in the best way possible."
Alan Gilpin, CEO of World Rugby, emphasised the organisation's unwavering commitment to player welfare. He stated, "We have always said that World Rugby never stands still on player welfare. This latest phase of welfare-related announcements reinforces the fact that as technology and science-based evidence progresses, we progress alongside it. With our latest report suggesting that rugby players lead healthier, happier lives, and participation in rugby up 11 per cent around the world since 2022, people can choose to play rugby knowing that they stand to enjoy all the benefits of this amazing game whilst being as safe as they possibly can be."