Salford Red Devils have become the first rugby league club to link up with PROTECHT – a mouthguard that actively monitors impacts to players’ heads.
Salford initially looked at implementing the technology at the beginning of 2020. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic putting additional constraints on the club, the decision was made to properly commence the project for the coming season.
The PROTECHT system has been designed by Sports & Wellbeing Analytics (SWA); a Welsh company founded in 2016 with the aim of improving player welfare and team performance through leveraging data.
The partnership will see Salford Red Devils adopt SWA’s PROTECHT system, which involves every player wearing a mouthguard with a chip inserted inside. The data is then sent back to pitch-side coaching and medical staff in real time. The chip’s placement within the mouthguard means that it is connected to the players’ upper jaw – the only part of the body that cannot move independently of the skull.
The initial focus with PROTECHT was on rugby union with the system in use in Leicester, Gloucester and Harlequins, but this new partnership puts Salford Red Devils at the forefront of player welfare in rugby league as SWA begin to adapt their technology into a number of other sports.
Each player will receive a custom fit mouthguard and the purpose of the system is to understand not only how many collisions the players undergo in matches and in training, but also the intensity of these impacts. This allows the medics and conditioners to ensure players are prepared for matches but also adequately recovered and ready to perform in competitive matches.
Salford’s lead physio Rob Artingstall, who played an important role in the partnership with PROTECHT, said: “PROTECHT approached me in early 2020 and asked if it was something that I would want Salford to be involved with and I obviously jumped at the chance.
“I’m really excited to restart our relationship with them. We were well underway with everything and were helping them with their product development and gathering data before COVID-19 hit us all in March which put a halt on progress.
“We are looking to use their outstanding technology to help us get detailed data on one of the only things that can’t accurately be quantified in rugby league – the collision!
“By getting this information, we can help PROTECHT with their research in to concussion and spotting potential patterns that may help identify players who are at increased risk. We can also use the data to plan the quantity and intensity of our contact sessions on a weekly basis which could help us strike the right balance between performance and looking after the players physically and mentally.
“We can also use the technology to progress players back from injury and to help inform us from a recovery point of view. It truly is cutting edge technology that will help look after player welfare as well as help drive performance.”
Director of rugby & operations Ian Blease added: “I am really pleased and excited about our new partnership with PROTECHT and I would like to thank Rob Artingstall for his work on this project.
“As a club, we always look to take care of our players and their welfare is of upmost importance to us and will always be at the forefront when we are investigating new equipment and topics. The mouth guards will enable our doctors and physios to make the right decisions for our players on the back of the analytical data available as a result of our players wearing them.
“The effects on players from rugby collisions alone is an area of research that is gathering pace all over the world, and for Salford Red Devils to be at the forefront of this research is an extremely important addition to our own research and development programmes.”
SWA CEO Chris Turner commented: “We are delighted to be working with Salford who have continually demonstrated the importance they place on player welfare. They have shown that performance and player welfare are intertwined and we believe the PROTECHT technology has a vital role to play in improving each of them.”