Rugby League to run mouth guard pilot as part of head injury research

Credit: PA

The Rugby Football League have announced that they are to run a pilot scheme using instrumented mouth guards to assess the impact on head injuries in the sport.

The research project will be led by Leeds Beckett University and will involve more than 1,200 players across 50 teams at all levels of the game, including the Super League, Women's Super League and community clubs.

The pilots will run from May to August and will involve the researchers testing different instrumented mouth guards in both training and matches.

Leeds Rhinos have been using them since 2020 and Salford Red Devils started to use them this season, while several rugby union Premiership clubs have also trialled them.

The findings will determine which instrumented mouth guards are selected for the project, which is to begin in November and run for three years.

Researchers will aim to shed more light on head impact exposures and discover how tackle technique and tackle height influence head impacts.

Professor Ben Jones, the lead researcher from Leeds Beckett University and the head of performance at the RFL's England Performance Unit, said: "In rugby league, as in other sports, there is widespread recognition of the need to maximise our understanding of the impact of head collisions.

"Mouth-guard technology has recently developed rapidly, allowing valid measures of head impacts and movement.

"Instrumented mouth guards are already being used by some clubs in rugby league, however a game-wide project will enable a better understanding across different levels of the sport with a bigger data set."

Former Leeds Rhinos' captain Stevie Ward still has migraines a year after being concussed. Credit: ITV News

Karen Moorhouse, the RFL's chief regulatory officer, said: "The well-being of players is a top priority of the RFL and clubs.

"The RFL has protocols across the game in relation to concussion (covering recognition, removal and rehabilitation) with the aim of protecting the welfare and health of players.

"These protocols have evolved as a result of increased knowledge of concussions.

"The RFL sees this project as an important next step in the understanding of head impacts and has committed to it for the benefit of current and future players."