There has been a lot of conversation recently about the damage an impact to the head can cause, and we are unfortunately seeing more and more recently retired rugby players being diagnosed with early onset dementia leading to a group of these players seeking a solution through the courts.
Whilst the sport of rugby has made considerable strides to improve player welfare, there is always more that can be done. In rugby, PROTECHT is already being used by a number of Premiership and PRO14 rugby clubs with very positive effect, but given the number of voices calling for action and the seriousness of the issue being discussed, I believe player welfare would be improved across the sports landscape if more clubs and sports took advantage of this technology and the new insights that it can provide.
Interestingly, the group of former players leading the action have appealed to those that lead the game to make the game safer through a 15 point charter. These points are wide ranging and deal with everything from the governance of the game to the physical contest on the pitch. Whether or not these are the right points is not for us to say, however, we at SWA believe that the PROTECHT tool can help to deliver against all of the points relating to the physical contest in training and in the game. As we can quantify impacts, we understand exactly what the demands of a training session or match might be and how these accumulate over time to show what a training week, month or career looks like.
In order to know by how much contact needs to be limited, the contact demands and head impact demands of the athlete must be objectively monitored. PROTECHT provides the objective measurement needed to build up complete pictures of “normal” contact loads for a team or a position. From this, training can be graduated to manage contact loads, keeping players safer and in so doing potentially prolong their careers.
PROTECHT provides objective monitoring of impacts sustained during a game for every player on the pitch. The data we have collected shows that substitutions can dramatically increase the intensity of contact demands experienced by the remaining players during the second half.
PROTECHT provides objective monitoring of impacts which are streamed live to the side-line. It delivers not just the detail of the impact in review but all impacts sustained in the game or training session can be reviewed giving a more complete picture on which to base decisions.
PROTECHT records the whole duration of each and every impact sustained by a player during a training session or game not just the maximum values. This is key to identify the nature of the impact and its context.
SWA have been working with a major university in the US, using finite brain modelling to determine where and how significantly each impact and the accumulation of those impact affects the strain placed on the players brain. Whilst experimental at this stage the information, which can be seen in near real time (2-3 seconds delay), can be of significant value to staff in judging how a player is responding to contact and streamline assessments based on specific regions of the brain that sustained a number of significant impacts
Spotters will see the majority of impacts however they regularly miss those that are not visible, such as at the bottom of a ruck. PROTECHT provides live objective contact data both on or off the ball whether the impact is visible or not, that is fed to the side-line from where it can be directed to independent adjudicators, be these spotters, officials, TMO etc who can then determine if a player(s) needs to be more closely monitored or removed.
PROTECHT provides a database of all impacts a player has taken whilst wearing the mouthguard. This will include all games and training sessions to provide a player database passport of injury and load history
PROTECHT can provide position specific data that can assist in any research that is carried out into position related risks, propensity for injury etc.
SWA provides significant education to teams using its PROTECHT product. Importantly this goes beyond concussion to how teams can better manage contact and head impact loads. It also provides a sport scientist to support and work with the clubs to review the data and drive changes where required to minimise unnecessary or unplanned impacts.
SWA have been working with a major university in the US, using finite brain modelling to determine where and how significantly each impact and the accumulation of those impact affects the strain placed on the players brain. Whilst experimental at this stage the information, which can be seen in near real time (2-3 seconds delay), can be of significant value to staff in judging how a player is responding to contact and streamline assessments based on specific regions of the brain that sustained a number of significant impacts.
Every impact records brain strain, every session accumulation fed to practitioners who can make better decisions based on data.
Whilst an impact can be recorded live with the PROTECHT system, the addition of the Penn State algorithms could provide significant insight to players brain impacts within a few additional seconds of receipt. Based on the findings of the research programme being undertaken this could eventually remove the need for MRI except in exceptional circumstances.
PROTECHT provides objective measurement of all impacts received by players whether seen or unseen. This data provides important context to any decisions made by Medical Practitioners about aftercare. What is perhaps more important is that the active and objective monitoring of contact and head load throughout a players career will enable better continuous care.
Dr Chris Jones has published a white paper on the CONCEPTUAL CLARITY OF CONTACT which discusses the importance of classifying impacts and taking understanding beyond the simple count of impacts whilst also introducing the PROTECHT intensity scale which we use to help simplify our data. The paper can be read here
Our lead Sport Scientist Lee Melotti has also been looking at the language around contact in his blog, ‘Mind your language’ which can be read here.
Finally there is some interesting reading around cognitive function in former players that is worth considering. This can be read here
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