3 types of wearable/M2M technology to make Rugby World Cups safer

Last updated: 01 November 2019

With the Rugby World Cup this year about to begin, the safety of the game is under the spotlight. There’s been plenty of attention given recently to how at this World Cup, concussed players must await the all-clear by specialists before re-entering a game. There’s also been a heightened focus on which players will make the final squads due to numerous injuries; The Welsh team for example has suffered many. These developments have left many in the Rugby world wondering how we can prevent future player injuries like this – wearable technology could be the answer.

We’re lucky enough to live in a world where new, smart wearables can measure multiple biometrics and use machine-to-machine (M2M) technology to relay data back to coaches and doctors instantly during training or competition. With improved player safety in mind, we’ve laid out three examples below of this technology that could revolutionize the game.

  1. GPS and heart monitoring systems

Catapult’s S4 is in fact already being used by many top professional rugby teams, including the British and Irish Lions, as well as by 15 of the 32 NFL teams in the US. A simple, clip-on device, the Catapult S4 is attached to players’ jerseys, and measures heart rate, velocity, distance covered, acceleration, and impact force to determine whether the wearer is at risk of injury. This data is then transmitted wirelessly to coaches and team doctors for instant analysis. This type of real time monitoring is the key to foreseeing and preventing player heart failure. When all Rugby teams adopt this technology, the game will truly be safer, both in training and at competition level.

  1. In-clothing sensors measuring anaerobic threshold, aerobic capacity, and skin temperature

Under Armour, partnering with Zephyr, has developed in-shirt monitors that provide metrics on the wearer’s cardiac activity, anaerobic threshold, aerobic capacity, as well as skin temperature. The E39 Compression Shirt, used by up to 50 college and professional sports teams across the US, uses fabric electrodes to monitor bio stats. The key element we see for the E39 is the ability to sense player dehydration or potential heatstroke, which can be a killer, through skin temperature data.  Coaches, doctors, and trainers can now spot the warning signs in time to prevent serious illness. The E39, and other similar systems are used widely in the US now; the potential benefits of this technology for Rugby players all over the world is plain to see.

  1. Monitoring head impact force – reducing concussion risk

Concussions in sport is a big issue, particularly for impact sports such as Rugby, American Football, and even Soccer. Furthermore, the issue is about to become even more prominent and more widely understood, thanks a new movie starring Will Smith, Concussion.

Concussions, or as they probably should be described: brain injuries, could alter the course of how sport progresses. If a total solution to reducing them, understanding them, and monitoring them isn’t found soon, the sports we love are at risk. Fortunately, wearable technology can once again come to the rescue.

Players from the English Premiership Rugby Team Saracens are now wearing sensor patches behind their ears, created by Seattle-based tech company X2 Biosystems. This sensor, called the xPatch, records the force and angle of impacts to the head throughout a match or in training. Measuring every impact event, the xPatch can then provide detailed logs of actions and clinical determinations. The resulting data then provides an immediate utility to trainers, doctors and coaches who can recognise when a player is at risk of concussion quicker than ever before. Once all teams embrace this technology, players will undoubtedly be safer.

What do you think of our list? Are there other key areas to address that could make Rugby safer? Let us know by tweeting to us @Gemalto. And don’t forget, you don’t have to be a player to enjoy wearable technology at a Rugby match. The fan experience at Saracens is being enhanced through smart wristbands as well. For more info on this, we’ll be at the Connected Stadium Summit later this year, where we’ll be discussing how we can further improve fan experiences and ease of payments across multiple stadiums.