Whether watching from our sofas, heading a football, or tackling a rugby forward, contact sports are a big part of life for millions of us. We know that the huge benefits of sport cover everything from mental health to national pride. We also know that collisions and head injuries are inevitable for some of those that play.
So thank goodness for tech - and a collaboration between Sports & Wellbeing Analytics (SWA), Keytree and Swansea University. Between them, they’ve developed the Internet of Things (IoT) enabled PROTECHT system, which is reducing and preventing issues relating to concussion in impact sports.
Using cloud tech, it brings together intelligent gum shields, inbuilt hardware and a highly intuitive web app to better understand contact loading – the ‘burden’ that activity like contact sport can place on a person.
Live data can be acted on instantly to support player welfare and their performance - informing life-changing, objective decisions, like whether the player should continue on the pitch, or whether this week’s training sessions should include contact drills and, if so, how much.
Seeing the invisible – before it’s too late
In 2017, SWA started to put their heads together with design and technology consultancy Keytree and Swansea University. Together they developed the hardware and software that records and measures every in-game impact on individual players using data transmitted from the custom-fitted, IOT-enabled mouthguards.
Now, the mouthguards are being used by teams as a way of managing contacts and collisions in a significant way, playing a huge role in how they practice.
As Chris Turner, SWA CEO puts it: “We are committed to using the very best technology available in building a solution which will undoubtedly help to protect sportsmen and women from serious health issues in the short, medium and long term while providing genuine performance advantages to them and their teams.”
PROTECHT demonstrates that by harnessing the latest technology, the range of industries and communities we can positively impact are virtually limitless.
Making a real difference
Keytree’s (part of Deloitte since 2020) involvement provided an extraordinary chance to make a direct and positive impact on people’s lives and protect their health, while also expanding ideas of what’s possible using the latest technology.
“PROTECHT demonstrates that by harnessing the latest technology, the range of industries and communities we can positively impact are virtually limitless,” said Dan McNamara, Deloitte partner and former Keytree CEO.
“With PROTECHT, sports organisations, from professional bodies to school teams, are in a position to accurately monitor and analyse the effects of impact sports on the participants as well as gather and analyse key performance stats in real time. The positive impact this can have on the health and performance of athletes of all ages speaks for itself.”
PROTECHT Intelligent Mouthguards are quite something. They have tiny accelerometers, gyroscopes and transmitters embedded in them to measure the linear and rotational movement of the head. Harnessing cloud technology, analytics and IoT, they’re able to send precise real-time impact intensity data to pitch side coaching and medical teams.
A specially designed and highly intuitive web app, designed and built by Keytree, interprets the data and displays insights and analytics of sub-concussive and concussive impacts. It can log historical impacts on players by the session, game, week, season or entire career and help medical staff make objective decisions that prioritise players’ health.
Significantly reducing contact and injuries
Independently validated by both Stanford University and Swansea University, PROTECHT is already being used by professional rugby teams including Harlequins, Gloucester Rugby, Leicester Tigers, Ospreys and Bristol Bears Women, St Helens Rugby league, Salford Red Devils, Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC.
With player welfare being inextricably linked to team performance, teams and athletes have also seen performance benefits with the use of the technology. Harlequins rugby are among the teams that used PROTECHT last season and have talked enthusiastically in the press about how it’s helped them to improve their management of contact in training which in turn significantly reduced injury rates. This greater player availability was cited as a major contributor to their success last season.
PROTECHT and the beautiful game
In addition, a 2021 partnership with the Premier League, brought the tech to football. SWA provided bespoke PROTECHT mouthguards that measure the frequency and intensity of all collisions that happen while players are heading the ball, as part of a study on head impact in the sport.
In the initial study, involving Liverpool FC’s U23, U18 and women’s teams and Manchester City’s U18s and women’s teams, heading in training was monitored to better understand the forces placed on the players. Off the back of this research, the FA announced and immediately introduced new heading guidelines for all levels of the sport. Further work will now take place with a much larger group of players across different professional leagues for both men and women to help further improve player welfare in the sport.
Ultimately, the hope is that the use of PROTECHT could help change lives, by prolonging the careers and protecting the quality of life in retirement of sportsmen and women who play high impact sports, while having the additional benefit of helping teams to train smarter and improve team performance.
Lizzie Tantam, PR manager
+44 207 007 2911 | Email Lizzie