Sarries stars don earpieces in concussion trial

Ross McLean
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Saracens players wore the devices against London Irish on Saturday
SARACENS used Saturday’s Premiership clash with London Irish to launch the first tranche of a pioneering programme to determine the effects of concussion in rugby union.

Mark McCall’s side became the first top-flight outfit to have impact sensors taped behind their earlobes, a technology known as xPatch which is designed to measure the size and angle of hits to the head.

Concussion is a growing issue in sport and the International Rugby Board introduced an enhanced Head Injury protocol in June in a bid to improve player safety, and Saracens are determined to act as trailblazers.

“We’re collecting data because we want answers,” said chief executive Edward Griffiths.

“In simple terms we don’t want to meet our players in 20 years’ time to find them suffering from dementia or any similar condition, and to reflect we suspected something was going on but didn’t really know.

“At Saracens, we feel obliged to ask these questions without delay and seek answers, however uncomfortable they may be.”

The devices are produced by Seattle-based X2 Bio-Systems and have already been worn by players in American Football.

The current procedure sees information downloaded after a match or training session, although later this year new sensors are set to provide real-time data. It is hoped this information will then provide a more accurate gauge to determine whether a player should leave the field of play following impact or continue playing safely.

■ xPatch contains a gyroscope and accelerometer to measure the angle and the force of hits to the head

■ Device can monitor any change in a player’s physical and/or mental condition

■ Data can be logged and checked regularly to detect any signs of short or long-term health complications