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Concussion in rugby league: Salford Red Devils to aid research with microchipped mouthguards

Red Devils players will wear the PROTECHT mouthguards, already used by three Premiership rugby union clubs, to measure impacts; “It truly is cutting edge technology that will help look after player welfare as well as help drive performance,” says Salford physio Rob Artingstall

Salford Red Devils’ players will wear mouthguards containing microchips in the new Super League season to aid research into the effects of concussion.

Last year’s Challenge Cup runners-up are to use a system designed by Welsh company Sports & Wellbeing Analytics which uses sensor technology to send data in real-time to a pitch-side receiver that examines the impact on players’ heads.

The PROTECHT system is already in use in rugby union’s Gallagher Premiership at Leicester Tigers, Gloucester and Harlequins, and Salford, whose hopes of bringing in the technology in 2020 were dashed by the Covid-19 pandemic, aim to blaze a trail for Super League.

“We are looking to use PROTECHT’s outstanding technology to help us get detailed data on one of the only things that can’t accurately be quantified in rugby league – the collision,” Salford lead physiotherapist Rob Artingstall said.

“By getting this information, we can help PROTECHT with their research into concussion and spot potential patterns that may help identify players who are at increased risk.

“We can also use the data to plan the quantity and intensity of our contact sessions on a weekly basis which could help us strike the right balance between performance and looking after the players physically and mentally.

“We can also use the technology to progress players back from injury and to help inform us from a recovery point of view. It truly is cutting edge technology that will help look after player welfare as well as help drive performance.”

The chip’s placement within the mouthguard means it is connected to the players’ upper jaw, the only part of the body that cannot move independently of the skull.

The issue of concussions and their long-term effects has again been thrust into the spotlight during the off-season, not least of all following former Leeds Rhinos captain Stevie Ward announcing his retirement due to issues arising from two he suffered last year.

The Rhinos are playing their part in combating concussions, having partnered with University of Leeds and the Prevent Biometrics mouthguard technology company to measure collision events and direct head impact both at training and in Super League matches during the past year.

Salford director of rugby and operations Ian Blease is in no doubt the new mouthguards will prove highly beneficial to the club and players, and is only too happy for the Red Devils to be at the forefront of this research.

“As a club, we always look to take care of our players and their welfare is of upmost importance to us and will always be at the forefront when we are investigating new equipment and topics,” Blease said.

“The mouthguards will enable our doctors and physios to make the right decisions for our players on the back of the analytical data available as a result of our players wearing them.

“The effects on players from rugby collisions alone is an area of research that is gathering pace all over the world, and for Salford Red Devils to be at the forefront of this research is an extremely important addition to our own research and development programmes.”

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