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New Zealand: Innovations in Sports Safety Tech

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The rapid advancement of digital technology is reshaping numerous industries, extending beyond traditional sectors like finance, healthcare, education, and public policy. This expansion into new areas, including sports safety, highlights its unprecedented growth and transformative impact on diverse fields.

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Nicole Spriggs, a researcher at Lincoln University, has spent the past two years pioneering a study on rugby player safety, specifically focusing on female players, utilising innovative mouthguard technology. Her work could revolutionise how the game is played and managed, with implications that resonate across the entire sport.

One of the key findings of her research is the potential for more players to be sidelined for medical testing due to suspected concussions than previously anticipated. The technology she has been using measures player impacts, providing valuable data that can indicate the severity of collisions during play, which is crucial in identifying potential concussions and ensuring player safety.

Nicole’s research has also highlighted a significant gender disparity in impact limits within rugby. The discrepancy, where male players have a limit of 70g while female players are limited to 50g, underscores the necessity for gender-specific safety standards in the sport. This revelation prompts a critical examination of existing safety protocols and emphasises the urgency for additional research to comprehensively grasp these discrepancies’ implications. The findings underscore the importance of ensuring equitable safety measures for all players, irrespective of gender, and highlight the need for ongoing efforts to enhance player safety in rugby.

Despite the potential benefits of this technology in improving player safety, there are concerns that it could deter people from playing the game. The data showing the magnitude of impacts players face could be alarming to some, leading them to reconsider participating in the sport.

However, it’s important to note that the proportion of concussions in sports is relatively small compared to other causes, such as accidents. Additionally, the numerous benefits of team sports should not be overlooked.

Nicole’s research has also shed light on the prevalence of high-impact collisions in rugby, with two to three players experiencing impacts per game that would warrant medical attention at higher levels of the sport. This data underscores the need for enhanced safety measures and further research to protect players at all levels of play.

Nicole believes this technology could lead to a better understanding of player loading and help coaches adjust training regimens to reduce the risk of injury. Additionally, it could provide valuable information for players and coaches on how to manage concussions and minimise their long-term effects.

Besides Nicole’s breakthrough, innovative technologies are being developed worldwide to enhance safety and performance in various sports. In Taiwan, the iSwimWeaR device has been created specifically for swimming athletes, providing a comprehensive monitoring solution for divers and swimmers underwater. This device utilises low-power microwave sensing technology, integrated into diving masks and swimming goggles, to track vital signs with an impressive 95% accuracy rate, offering real-time data and safety alerts in emergencies and revolutionising safety measures in aquatic sports.

Furthermore, Mountain Watch is another advancement in outdoor safety technology, designed to prevent hikers from getting lost by offering real-time location sharing, route planning, and emergency signalling functionalities. Even in areas with weak mobile signals, Mountain Watch ensures hikers’ safety and helps them confidently navigate challenging terrains.

These advancements underscore the growing role of technology in enhancing safety and performance across sports, highlighting the innovative solutions being developed to address unique challenges in athletic environments.

While Nicole’s technology is currently limited due to its cost and durability, she remains optimistic about its potential to improve player safety and enhance the rugby experience. As she continues to analyse and document her findings, she hopes that her research will pave the way for safer and more informed participation in rugby for players of all levels.


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