6 Jul 2022
The RFL, Super League and Leeds Beckett University to deploy instrumented mouthguards throughout Rugby
As part of a joint project between the Rugby Football League (“RFL”), Super League (“SLE”) and Leeds
Beckett University (“LBU”), 40 teams throughout Rugby League in the UK & France will be instrumented with the most accurate technology available for measuring head accelerations, which can be a cause of concussions.
The joint project, known as the TaCKLE research project (TaCKLE standing for tackle and contact kinematics, load and exposure) aims to bring an evidenced based approach to both concussion and other areas of player welfare. The project will implement around 1,000 mouthguards annually starting in July 2022 that contain accelerometers and gyroscopes to measure head accelerations. The project focuses across leagues and includes men’s, women’s, Academy and Community senior and youth teams.
As part of a competitive tender process Prevent Biometrics Inc (“Prevent”), a Minneapolis based technology
company, were exclusively selected as the provider for the TaCKLE research project. This exclusive three year
agreement will deploy Prevents patented mouthguard technology across the 40 teams, including women’s, Community and youth teams.
Prevent’s technology will help support the RFL and SLE to deliver on ongoing player welfare commitments, which for mouthguard technologies began back in 2020 when the RFL, SLE and LBU commissioned the “Ready for Impact?” study. This was a validity and feasibility study of instrumented mouthguards (iMGs) that examined a number of different iMGs and their ability to provide accurate head acceleration data. The study, soon to be published in the British Journal for Sports Medicine, helped guide the creation of the TaCKLE Project. The TaCKLE Project validation testing included laboratory and on-field validity testing, in addition to player evaluations of fit, comfort, and function, and practitioner evaluation of perception of usability.
The TaCKLE Project undertook the most comprehensive validity study in the world to date. In collaboration with
leading international experts, governing bodies and iMG providers, the results of the study now provide a standard by which technology can be measured, which has been achieved through LBU’s research.
Prevent were selected against this challenging criteria, setting the standard for iMG excellence, and will support the RFL, SLE and LBU to further understand more about head impact exposure, biomechanical mechanisms during concussion events, and how tackle technique and tackle height influence head acceleration loading.
The project will specifically help the RFL and SLE tailor guidance around the contact loads players deal with and Professor Ben Jones, who is the lead researcher from Leeds Beckett and the Strategic Lead for Performance, Science and Research in the RFL’s England Performance Unit, is in no doubt the welfare benefits will be apparent for players at all levels of rugby league.
“Rugby league teams have always been forward thinking and innovative in their approach to performance and player welfare,” he said. “In 2020, a number of clubs started using instrumented mouthguards, and collectively all Super League clubs came together to work with the RFL and Leeds Beckett to select one instrumented mouthguard provider to deliver the TaCKLE research project. The three-year research project for Super League, the Women’s Super League, and the Academy and Community competitions shows the game’s commitment to all levels of the sport. The Rugby Football League have a number of centralising technology and research projects with Leeds Beckett, and this is another example of a project benefiting all levels of the sport.”
Ralph Rimmer, the RFL Chief Executive, said: “All in Rugby League recognise the need to prioritise player welfare, and the sport-wide commitment to this significant and groundbreaking project is evidence of that. Congratulations and thanks are due to those who have worked so hard to reach this point, and to the clubs and players whose support will be crucial if the potential of this project is to be realised.”Ken Davy, Super League Chairman commented; “The Betfred Super League clubs deserve huge credit for embracing this project in support of the overall game of Rugby League and as part of their duty for
player welfare. This is a truly collaborative approach, co-ordinated through the expertise and experience in sports projects by our partners at Leeds Beckett University”.
Professor Jones added: "This project will ultimately support player welfare initiatives and feeds into other projects Leeds Beckett are leading in Rugby League, which is player load guidance. We're working collaboratively with other governing bodies, and Government departments to combine our work with iMGs
into our overall player load guidance which will include everything from contact training to psychological load,
and travelling to sleep. These research projects have been ongoing for the last five years, allowing everything we do to be evidence based. The development of instrumented mouthguards, and the performance of Prevent in our recent validity study is why we feel it is the most suitable partner for us, given their accuracy and validity scores.”
Stanford University, University of Otago, University of Sydney, and the University of Ulster are among several other academic institutions using Prevent's mouthguard to study head accelerations. Additionally, Prevent is contracted by the United States Department of Defence and World Rugby are also studying head accelerations and have chosen Prevent as their partner for head impact monitoring.
“Real-time, accurate data is critical in helping to facilitate better understanding of head impacts in sport,” Prevent CEO Mike Shogren said. “Our technology provides accurate data on head accelerations to allow for better decision making. We’re thrilled to support the RFL, BSL and LBU in their support for player welfare and to safeguard the sport of Rugby League.”