Randwick Rugby Club is the first Australian team to trial a new concussion patch that monitors data from head impacts and allows medical staff to make better decisions around head injury treatment and prevention.
The first grade team wore the small patches behind their ears at the opening round of the Shute Shield competition last weekend, and will continue to use it in every game from now on.
The X-patch measures G-force and rotational acceleration to monitor the force, length and location of every blow to the head. The small digital device was created in 2007 by Seattle-based X2 Biosystems for American football and was used for research by the Auckland University of Technology. This study involved examining every hit sustained by a single amateur rugby union team in New Zealand throughout the 2013 season, and was published by the American Journal of Medicine.
The research found that across a 19-match season, the premier-level team experienced 20,687 impacts to the head greater than 10g, which is approximately the impact of a light punch. That equates to a massive average of 77 impacts to the head per player-position per match.
4,452 of these impacts were “above the injury-risk limit” – and this was in the amateur rugby union league.
Wearing the X-patch, according to Dr Matt Matava of the NFL Physician Society, “has allowed us to accurately diagnose concussions immediately following an injury [6 minutes after a hit]. The software also allows up to compare the players’ injury date to their baseline in order to asses changes in mental status.”
The X-patch was adopted by London rugby union team, Saracens, in January. It has also already appeared in NFL, NHL, US Lacrosse and in the coming season will be used by all 20 major league soccer teams in the United States.
The technology is currently focused on simply monitoring head impacts and acquiring data. However, Dr Adrian Cohen of NeckSafe, said at the Randwick club season launch on Thursday: “one of the things that interested me was the role of technology and actually getting some objectivity into what is going on.”
“We can see what is going on and get a firm understanding of the things that lead to injury and what we can do,” said Dr Cohen.
Eventually, when adopted more widely, this technology could revolutionise our understanding of and ability to prevent head injuries in contact sports. It will help in particular to monitor the smaller, repetitive hits, which can do even more damage than the obvious knock out hits.