A high-tech “Intelligent Mouthguard” (IMG) system made by Prevent Biometrics (Minneapolis, MN), a start-up company based on Cleveland Clinic technology, has been selected for global adoption by World Rugby in its professional athletes.
First conceived in 2010 by inventors in Cleveland Clinic’s Neurological Institute and Lerner Research Institute, the Prevent Biometrics IMG technology is the only product that meets stringent World Rugby performance specifications. As a result, World Rugby will begin mandating use of the Intelligent Mouthguard for about 7,500 professional Rugby Union players around the world beginning Jan. 1, 2024.
Prevent Biometrics’ Intelligent Mouthguard technology records every impact to the head, and, using Bluetooth wireless transmission to an iPhone, accurately reports linear and angular accelerations and velocities. The system also measures contact workload as well as head impact direction and location. It is these precise data points that are helping World Rugby clinicians identify an athlete who could benefit from a concussion assessment.
World Rugby spent the past three years funding rigorous, independent research to assess IMG data and different systems. Now, Prevent Biometrics IMG’s validated data are being incorporated as part of the on-field head injury assessment process in World Rugby.
There also is potential for IMG data to be used in the amateur and youth head-injury-assessment processes. This will allow World Rugby to better understand head impact exposure, identify head impacts and reduce head impact exposure for its more than 8 million athletes.
World Rugby Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eanna Falvey said, “The advances in smart mouthguard technology mean elite players will be better cared for than ever before. We are taking smart mouthguards out of the realm of medical research and putting them into the world of everyday performance management to continue to manage player welfare in the best way possible.”
A Cleveland Clinic research team, led by Edward Benzel, M.D., Chairman Emeritus of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Neurological Surgery; Sergey Samorezov, a senior principal research engineer at Cleveland Clinic; Vince Miele, M.D., University of Pittsburgh Neurological Surgery; and Adam Bartsch, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer of Prevent Biometrics, originally determined that impact sensors in a mouthguard — as opposed to a helmet, head band or skin patch — was the optimal method for detecting head accelerations.
A pivotal study published by the Cleveland Clinic inventors in 2014, and dozens of follow-on studies over the past decade, have confirmed this finding. Today, the innovative Intelligent Mouthguard technology counts more than 60 published and pending patents worldwide.
“The mandate by World Rugby is a paradigm shift in athlete safety and concussion care,” said Dr. Benzel, who was involved in the prior Cleveland Clinic mouthguard research and has reviewed the recent studies that led to World Rugby’s decision to recommend Prevent’s systems to all athletes. “Using objective and quantitative IMG data, coupled with clinical judgement, provides a game-changing system to better identify athletes in need of concussion assessment and will ultimately help keep athletes safer.” Dr. Benzel is an inventor of the technology Cleveland Clinic licensed to Prevent Biometrics, a Cleveland Clinic Innovations spin-off company. Both he and Cleveland Clinic are entitled to royalties and other commercialization revenues from the company.
Dr. Bartsch added, “World Rugby has now established itself as the global leader in athlete concussion identification, and I’m anxious to see how quickly other clinicians follow suit. In the early IMG days at Cleveland Clinic, we always thought if we could provide clinicians with accurate, real-time, and easy-to-interpret head impact data, then it would become essential in their concussion assessment processes. It is humbling to see the IMG in-use across the globe.”