The mouthguard that could revolutionise football’s dementia battle… new piece of kit can measure impacts to the head and warn of the dangers to come.
There is widespread consensus that football is dealing with head injuries badly. Nobody knows the damage done to a player after a heavy collision on the pitch. Swansea-based start-up SWA has developed a mouthguard to change the game. Rugby clubs, boxers and MMA fighters are already using the technology. SWA say they could develop an ultra thin guard to be used by footballers.
Swansea-based start-up has developed a mouthguard to change the way sport deals with brain injury. A chip inside the gumshield measures the force and impact of every head trauma suffered by an athlete. That information is instantly relayed to a pitchside computer, providing medical teams with live data about the damage their players may have suffered. That way doctors know when someone needs to be examined, replaced or protected.
It is far more scientific than the football protocols where a doctor talks to a player to determine their wellbeing from the lucidity of their answers.
‘Nobody knows what damage has gone on inside that guy’s head,’ says David Allen of SWA. ‘Nobody is making that objective decision based on data…that’s wrong.’ And that is where SWA think they have the answer. Unseen knocks, missed by officials and medical teams, are particularly crucial. Allen adds: ‘What we’re looking to do is not stop people playing. We’re looking to prolong their career because you can say to someone: “Actually, in training you’ve done enough. You need to stop if you want to be ready to play.”
Chris Sutton, former England defender said “Premier League clubs nowadays have members of staff who monitor everything from how many sprints you made in a match to how much sleep you got last night.They measure the lot. Yet what is not measured is potentially the most important thing — what is happening to your head on a day-to-day basis. I find that remarkable.
As a youth at Norwich, we might practise heading on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoon. Come match-day, you might head the ball three, maybe four, times. So it’s in training where the real damage can be done.
If I was playing now, I’d like to know what was happening to my head, the impact all of this was having on me. This mouthguard does that.” What’s the downside? This is common sense, surely. Rugby uses it — to great effect, I’m told — and I’d encourage football to follow its sporting counterpart’s lead. Let’s get a trial of this in motion. Even if it is with just one club. Mike Lancaster, Head of Medical at Harlequins commented “ It allows us to build a pool of data on how much contact they tend to take in a week, per training session and in a game. It would be interesting to see the numbers in football. What are the numbers for heading a ball? They would be surprised by some of the areas and drills which yield interesting results