Smart mouthguards: What are the ‘game-changing’ gum shields and how are they being used in the Six Nations 2024

The mouthguards have been described as a 'huge step forward' for rugby

HISTORY has been made in the Six Nations this year with the use of smart mouthguards.

Scotland hooker George Turner became the first player in the competition’s history wearing the device to have a head injury assessment.

Turner was assessed in the 12th minute during Scotland’s 20-16 defeat to France at Murrayfield before returning to the field a few minutes later.

The reason for smart mouthguards?

Head injuries have been a huge topic in the sport for the last few years with growing concern over how it is having an impact on players across all levels.

Experts, coaches and players alike believe that not enough is being done to help protect players in the long-term from the negative effects of serious head injuries.

Ex-players have suffered the consequence of head injuries in the sport - England World Cup winner Steve Thompson suffers from dementia.

The late Scottish and former Newcastle Falcons player Doddie Weir was another one to fall victim to this having been diagnosed with motor neurone disease before passing away in 2019.

According to statistics obtained by the BBC, 300 players - including Thompson - from both rugby codes are looking to sue the games’ authorities over head injuries.

George Turner was the first player forced off after detection from the smart mouthguard
George Turner was the first player forced off after detection from the smart mouthguardCredit: PA

How do smart mouthguards work?

First introduced by World Rugby following a $2million (£1.6m) investment back in October, the device is used to provide in-game alerts to pitch-side doctors.

This is done to let doctors know about whether the player is at risk of being injured or showing signs of other injuries including concussion.

Sensors within the guard measure impact on the head as well as accelerations/decelerations.

An impact above 70g and 4,000 radians per second squared will recommend a head injury assessment (HIA).

What have people said about smart mouthguards?

Former Scotland international Rory Lawson describing it as a "huge step forward".

Lindsay Starling, World Rugby’s science and medical manager, said: "These mouthguards have really changed the game.

"There is a chance that repeated head impacts over a player’s life may contribute to long-term brain health, so we should be doing what we can to look after players’ brain health from all head-impact events, not just concussions.

“This allows us to quantify the frequency and magnitude of head impacts, which means we can act on big impacts, and over their career better manage their exposure to them, and ultimately reduce them.”

However, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend urged caution around the technology after controversy in France's win over Scotland.

Turner became the first player in Six Nations history to be removed from a game after the mouthguard detected a collision that could have caused a concussion.

Townsend said: “I don’t think there was any more that came out of it but we just have to watch what we’re doing here with bringing technology in that might have an influence for not the correct reasons, let’s say.”