Bupa Dental partners on trial to assess the impact of head knocks

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In an Australian first, Bupa Dental has partnered with company HitIQ to fit junior rugby players with ‘smart mouthguards’ to monitor head knocks.

The company said this is the first time hi-tech mouthguard technology has been made available to junior rugby players in Australia with the aim of enhancing grassroots concussion safety protocols.

The HitIQ smart mouthguard, currently used by AFL and NRL players, is embedded with force measuring sensors that log head knocks and the accumulation of force from hits sustained during a game. The trial will see up to 100 players from the Wests Bulldogs Junior Rugby Club fitted for the mouthguards at Bupa Dental’s Brisbane and Toowong Practices.

The managing director of Bupa health services, Dr Dwayne Crombie, said this trial bridges the gap between dental care and general health care and safety for junior athletes.

“The importance of an expertly fitted mouthguard for young players is widely acknowledged, but we know very little about the effects of game-day collisions on their developing brains with most concussion-related research being undertaken on elite level adult players.

“This has the potential to be a truly transformational offering and we’re proud to be the first dental practice to offer the HitIQ solution to Australian children,” said Dr Crombie.

A concussion is a growing concern at the professional rugby league level with one being recorded every 1.6 games according to recent reports.

The managing director of HitIQ, Mike Vegar, said it was exciting to be partnering with a large dental provider for a trial that will go a long way towards helping local and international sports bodies understand how to make junior sport safer.

“We know a major barrier to junior sport participation is parental concern over concussions and head knocks.

“Our artificial intelligence-enabled mouthguard not only gathers accumulative data for analysis but can also assist in game-day concussion assessments and faster linkages to medical assistance,” said Mr Vegar.

In the event that a child sustains a head impact above a pre-determined threshold during a game or training, parents of the child will be able to receive a text message with a link to a head injury symptomology assessment. If the child fails the assessment, they will be advised to follow club concussion protocols and seek medical treatment.

Dr Crombie said Bupa Dental looks forward to reviewing the results of the trial with a view to potentially extending the offering more widely.