Over 1,200 players to test mouth guards for new RFL concussion research project

The Rugby Football League is to launch a pilot scheme involving more than 1,200 players for an extensive game-wide research project into the cause and effects of concussion.

A trial of a new mouthguard will take place in rugby league.
A trial of a new mouthguard will take place in rugby league.
A trial of a new mouthguard will take place in rugby league.

The 12 Betfred Super League clubs are to work with the RFL on the Instrumented Mouth-Guard Project, with research led by Leeds Beckett University designed to quantify the risk of head impact in rugby league.

The scheme aims to cover around 50 teams at all levels of the game, including academy, the Betfred Women’s Super League and community clubs.

The pilots will run from May to August and will involve the researchers testing different instrumented mouth guards in both training and matches.

Leeds Rhinos have been using them since 2020 and Salford Red Devils started to use them this season, while several rugby union Premiership clubs have also trialled them.

The findings will determine which instrumented mouth guards are selected for the project, which is to begin in November and run for three years.

Researchers will aim to shed more light on head impact exposures and discover how tackle technique and tackle height influence head impacts.

Professor Ben Jones, the lead researcher from Leeds Beckett University and the head of performance at the RFL’s England Performance Unit, said: “In rugby league, as in other sports, there is widespread recognition of the need to maximise our understanding of the impact of head collisions.

“Mouth-guard technology has recently developed rapidly, allowing valid measures of head impacts and movement.

“Instrumented mouth guards are already being used by some clubs in rugby league, however a game-wide project will enable a better understanding across different levels of the sport with a bigger data set.”

Karen Moorhouse, the RFL’s chief regulatory officer, said: “The well-being of players is a top priority of the RFL and clubs.

“The RFL has protocols across the game in relation to concussion (covering recognition, removal and rehabilitation) with the aim of protecting the welfare and health of players.

“These protocols have evolved as a result of increased knowledge of concussions.

“The RFL sees this project as an important next step in the understanding of head impacts and has committed to it for the benefit of current and future players.”