Essendon, Blues and maybe Dogs to trial Hird-backed mouthguard

James Hird is helping with a high-tech mouthguard.

James Hird is helping with a high-tech mouthguard.Credit:Photo: Jason South

Collingwood also has been in discussions with the mouthguard company, but is less likely to use the device than the Dons, Blues and Bulldogs. The company is hoping that there will be four clubs in the trial.

While the AFL has deemed the mouthguard safe for use by players, the league has limited it to research purposes. Club doctors cannot use the device to make clinical judgments about whether a player is concussed, or the extent of a concussion.

The expectation is that it will be used during the premiership season. Its use will not be compulsory.

Hird has not been involved in discussions with the AFL about the mouthguard, but Hit IQ — which hopes to establish the device in the United States, where concussion is a massive issue in American football — has indicated to the AFL that the former Bomber is assisting the company with the mouthguard.

The Nexus A9 mouthguard.

The Nexus A9 mouthguard.

The mouthguard has been backed by the AFL Players’ Association, which is keen to gain as much knowledge as possible about head-high collisions and hopes that the device can be a tool for improving player safety.

Clubs have previously experimented with sensors that were taped behind the ears of players to perform a similar function to the mouthguard.

The proponents of the mouthguard hope that, because it is fitted in the mouth, it will give a more accurate measure of the impact of collisions to the skull.

If the mouthguard is found to be effective as a tool for measuring the impact of head blows, it could become a diagnostic tool for club medicos, who are increasingly conscious of the risks of concussions — an issue that become more visible, as past players such as ex-Bomber and Cat John Barnes and ex-Demon and Kangaroo Shaun Smith say that they are afflicted with health problems that arose from concussions in their playing days.

Hird is not believed to be an investor, at this stage, in Hit IQ, whose chief executive has led the discussions with the clubs, the AFL and the AFLPA. Hird has taken a low profile since the Essendon drugs saga ceased in 2016, although he remains in contact with key Essendon people and has been mentoring young midfielder Kyle Langford.

Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age. He writes news, commentary and analysis on a variety of other sports.




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