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Director of Elite Sales & Strategy - UK & Europe
Following the announcement of our research partnership with Scottish Rugby in October 2021 the process of onboarding the players and performance staff has begun. The weekend’s game versus Australia at Murrayfield will be the first-time members of the senior Scotland squad take to the field using the latest HITIQ Nexus A9 mouthguards.
The onboarding process for new users of HITIQ is the same for everyone, whether you are an international or junior, so the process of the Scotland players was clear. First, a scan is taken of the player’s mouth to ensure a perfect fit, then the mouthguard is 3D printed with the sensors placed to suit the unique features of the player’s upper jaw.
Many members of the Scotland squad have already been through the scanning process to ensure the perfect custom fit mouthguard and the correct sensor placing. The process now shifts to the sport science, medical and coaching teams.
The SRU takes player welfare very seriously, as demonstrated by the key staff from the Scottish Rugby taking part. They included Andy Boyd – Head of Athletic Development, Dr James Robson, Chief Medical Officer Richard Wood, Medical Services Manager and Jack Walsh, Sport Scientists.
Over two days, at the players hotel in Edinburgh, the performance team were taken through key elements of the HITIQ hardware and software.
Day one focused on the hardware and the various components of the system. Simple steps such as how to keep the mouthguards clean and protected when travelling as well as how to download data take high priority. Once this has been demonstrated the focus quickly moves to discuss how to access, analyse, interpret and present the data both among the performance team and with players. This ensures SRU can maximise and customise the system to suit its needs.
The various data ‘views’ are explained to demonstrate the broad capabilities of the system. Player data can be viewed at an individual level by playing units, positions, teams or squad views are also available to provide an enhanced understanding of exposures at different playing levels. As Scotland is using the Autumn internationals to breed new players into the senior international set-up, this versatility is essential ahead of tournaments such as the 6 Nations or the World Cup.
The power of the HITIQ Nexus system comes from its independently verified database of 12,000 impacts. This means any player, team or squad that starts to use the system isn’t starting from scratch when building profiles surrounding impact metrics. The system is constantly being updated with new information and data. This growing database of impact intelligence will help support the Scottish team even when they are not playing or training. As the system grows, the accuracy and management will continue to develop allowing for better interpretation of the data, earlier identification of player risk and therefore better management and mitigation strategies.
Day two is when live testing takes place. Players start to use the mouthguards during training drills. The Performance team have the chance to operate the system independently while still benefiting from HITIQ staff to help with questions, processes, and the most efficient way to access and display data. This stage is important as it allowed Scottish Rugby to customise the system to provide the insight just as they want it.
The match versus Australia will be the first time Scottish Rugby uses HITIQ mouthguards to monitor its players for head impacts. In terms of player welfare, it marks the start of a new chapter for the Union. The headlines will be about this major step forward. Of course, in-game monitoring is important. But the real value of the HITIQ system is across the season, in training and in matches. It’s about ongoing support to help the performance team help the players. Monitoring can help develop individualised performance programmes for the players, hopefully keeping them safe and supporting increased game-day availability. As we say at HITIQ, risk is not a game. We are here to help measure, monitor and mitigate it for the good of players and the future of the game.