In a rugby first, a player was taken off for an HIA after an alert that was triggered by a mouthguard
Scotland’s George Turner became the first rugby player to be removed from the field for a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) that was triggered by his ‘smart mouthguard’.
The incident occurred early in the first half of Scotland’s clash with France, with Turner replaced by Ewan Ashman in the 17th minute.
Smart mouthguard comes into play in Six Nations
The hooker made a big hit on Charles Ollivon and was also part of a hefty collision with France’s Uini Atonio – who was shown a yellow card during the game for a no-arms hit – in the moments prior to his departure.
World Rugby introduced the new technology ahead of this year’s tournament, which sends alerts of high forces to the independent matchday doctor. It’s recommended that male players be taken off for an HIA for collisions above a force of 70G and 4,000 radians per second squared, while the threshold is 55G for female players.
Turner was cleared to return to the game and helped Scotland to a 13-10 lead at the break, although les Bleus snatched a controversial victory in the second half.
While it could be an encouraging step towards creating more resolute player-safety protocols, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend urged caution after the tussle at Murrayfield.
“I don’t think there was any more that came out of it but we just have to watch what we’re doing here with bringing technology in that might have an influence for not the correct reasons, let’s say,” Townsend said.
“But thankfully George came back on after ten minutes and I thought Ewan Ashman played really well in that period and did when he came off the bench at the end too.”
Ireland’s game against Italy in Dublin also had to be paused as Jack Crowley searched for mouthguard that was dislodged in contact, although the fly-half wasn’t forced from the field.
How mouthguards can be used to detect concussion has been studied for some time now. We spoke to Sports & Wellbeing Analytics (SWA) chief executive Chris Turner in 2022 to find out more.
“It’s like GPS for contact,” Turner said. “It’s like a conventional gumshield but it’s fitted with microchips and sensors that measure different things.
“There’s a proximity sensor that ensures data is only recorded when it’s in a player’s mouth and an aerial that transmits readings in real time to staff on the sidelines.
“It’s recording not just the number of head impacts but also the forces involved, therefore they can be quantified.”