New mouth guard provides concussion data

La Trobe University will conduct world first concussion research using an Australian-designed mouth guard that senses head impacts.

Concussion expert, Associate Professor Alan Pearce PhD, will be managing the world-first scientific field study in conjunction with La Trobe to validate the mouth guard to measure the forces a player sustains during a game.

“Using a mouth guard that is firmly fixed and doesn’t move during the game to measure head impacts on players at not just elite levels will be a huge step forward in our understanding of the invisible injury that is concussion.

“A successful trial will be a real starting point for researchers and the medical profession to be able to make a difference in the community.

“Concussion is a public health issue and is a key reason the research is being conducted with a community sports club, making this a world first,” Dr Pearce added.

An Australian company has developed the mouth guard which will be able to assist doctors to improve their diagnosis of concussion and is expected to change the way elite sport and the community deal with head injuries.

Mike Vegar, Managing Director of Hit IQ, the company developing the mouth guard technology (the Nexus A9), said the product is an important development and will replace the current observational assessments used to diagnose head injuries.

“This is an exciting innovative technology that will provide data to assist medical professionals diagnose concussions and provide scientific based information on head impacts while playing sport. Currently we still rely on observational assessments, providing scientific data will be of great assistance to the medical professionals in both a practical setting and growing the concussion science,” said Mr Vegar.

The mouth guard is considered the best option for accurately measuring head impacts because it is connected directly to the skull through the upper jaw.

The Strathmore Football Club (Essendon District Football League) is involved in the scientific field study with a number of players from the seniors and reserves teams wearing the mouth guards.

The players, who have all volunteered to be involved in the field study, will wear the mouth guards fitted with technology to measure the intensity, location & direction of impacts, for the remainder of the 2017 season.

Senior Coach of the Strathmore Football Club, former AFL player, Nathan Grima said the Club was delighted to be part of the study as it fitted in with their role as a responsible community sporting club.

“The welfare of our players is a priority and our involvement in the study reflects this and the role we play in the local community. We understand the issues surrounding concussion in all sports and hope our involvement in this scientific field study helps the community going forward,” Nathan said.

Mr Vegar said it was important for the field study to involve a community club and it would provide scientific validation of the Nexus A9 to allow it to be made available to the market.

“Validation through the field study will allow the product to be made available to the elite (professional) codes and the knowledge from this will flow on to assist grassroots sport in the community,” Mike said.

“We are looking forward to being able to work with the sporting bodies and in turn the medical profession to develop the science that will help prolong the playing careers of athletes at the elite level as well as in the community.”

While the 2017 study is to validate the product the group field study will continue over the next two years to provide data on the players experience over time. No personal identifying data will be made available.

“It must be remembered that concussion is a clinical diagnosis, but having accurate data will be of enormous benefit to the medical profession to make more informed decisions on diagnosing concussion, and protecting the brain long-term, not just in sport, but at work, at school and in our daily lives,” Dr Pearce said.

Photo: La Trobe University Associate Professor Alan Pearce PhD