Saracens rugby club introduced an innovative new technology to rugby yesterday by becoming the first team to wear sensors specially designed to monitor and detect the effects of concussion.
The xPatch, designed by Seattle-based company X2 Biosystems, contains a gyroscope and accelerometer to measure the angle and force of hits to the head.
The device is worn just below the ear and is already being widely used in the US in the national football and hockey leagues.
Saracens' players will wear the xPatch for every game and training session, enabling coaches to monitor the data in real time to assess any changes in a player’s physical and mental condition. The data will also be logged and checked regularly to detect any signs of short or long-term health complications.
X2 Biosystems founder Rich Able said: “We still do not know everything about concussion causes and effects but the subject is now enormously significant in all American sports, including soccer.”
Describing the functionality of the xPatch, Able explained that “it measures the ‘smash’ hits and he number of lesser hits which can have a cumulative effect.”
Concussion has become a hot topic in sports in the UK in recent times.
The subject has generated much debate in football after Tottenham Hotspur’s goalkeeper Hugo Lloris played on during a match after suffering a concussion earlier this season, and was also brought into focus in cricket recently after the tragic death of Australian batsman Phillip Hughes from being hit on the head by a fast ball during a match.
But it is most of a concern in rugby, where the physical nature of the sport means it is an extremely prevalent injury which can cause serious health issues later in life as well as in the short-term.
Saracens CEO Edward Griffiths said: “We don't want to meet our players in 20 years' time to find them suffering from dementia and reflect we suspected something was going on but didn't really know.
“We aspire to be a club that genuinely looks after its players, and nothing is more important than their medium and long term welfare.”
A recent study of European players found that one in ten had suffered concussion in the last three years and 40 per cent of those either didn’t realise, or did realise but wanted to carry on playing.