Eye-tracking technology to be trialled to help detect concussions in rugby

Eye-tracking technology will be trialled to assist with the detection of concussions in the sport, World Rugby has announced.

In competitions trialling the technology, it will be used in-match alongside the sport’s existing head injury assessment (HIA) process and also as part of the return-to-play steps.

Studies have found that eye movement, or oculomotor function, is altered at the time a concussion is suffered, or shortly after, and the technology being trialled should pick up any changes in that function.

World Rugby chief medical officer Dr Eanna Falvey said: “We believe that oculomotor screening examination in rugby has the potential to boost the identification and management of concussions by objectively identifying potential abnormalities in oculomotor function between a player’s baseline and when removed for an HIA assessment, adding to the depth of identification methods available to the sport.”

Two technology providers – EyeGuide and NeuroFlex – will be involved in the trials, with details of the competitions they will be used in yet to be confirmed.

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The news comes at a time when the treatment of head injuries in rugby and in all sports is under scrutiny, and when a legal action on behalf of nine former players suffering from early onset dementia has been launched against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union.

A separate study, carried out by the University of Birmingham among elite male rugby players in the Premiership and the Championship in England, has identified biomarkers in a player’s saliva which were 94 per cent accurate in predicting the outcome of an HIA as to whether a player was concussed or not.

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