While the U.S. Army is trying to use oral devices to help treat traumatic brain injury, one team in New Zealand’s rugby league is using mouthguards to study concussions and impact levels on the field.
All of the Hutt Old Boy’s Marists’ players have been fitted with mouthguards filled with electronic sensors and imported micro-chipped technology which measure the impacts they recieve during play.
The use of these mouthguards is not a first internationally, but it is New Zealand’s first use and shows how these recent devices being made to monitor and study traumatic brain injury and contact sports are spreading across the globe providing much more robust data researchers will be able to use to advance their own studies.
The team wore their new mouthguards during a match for the first time on Monday and although there were no recorded concussions, the levels of impacts these players are getting is alarming. One player’s sensor registered an impact of 126 G-Force.
“There are accelerometers and gyros in the mouthguards,” Doug King said in an interview. “I do a one-minute concussion test called the King-Devick on every player after the match and then download all the data from the mouthguards and correlate the two to see what’s happening.”
King is doing the research as part of his second PhD, but he was inspired after he witnessed the tragic death of a rugby player in 1998.
“He died on the field as a result of quite a few concussions and a bleed on his brain,” King said. “He was unfortunately declared dead on arrival at Wellington Hospital. It spurred me to want to know a lot more with regards to concussion.”
Rugby doesn’t have quite the rates of TBI as other violent contact sports like football, boxing, or soccer, but it is still noted for its lack of padding and rough play. I’m sure if NFL players used the mouthguards though, the G-Force readings would probably be rather frightening.