A trailblazing new piece of technology is helping female athletes better track and manage the symptoms of concussion.

Concussion remains the most common injury within rugby, with reducing its risk and mitigating its short and long-term symptoms one of the highest priorities for the sport’s governing bodies.

Research published by the University of Birmingham has suggested that female athletes may suffer both a higher rate of concussion and more severe and prolonged symptoms than their male counterparts, with the hormone variation during the menstrual cycle noted in the research as a key factor.

So off the back of those findings, a new technology has been introduced to help athletes, medical staff and coaches better analyse the impact of the menstrual cycle on concussion and more effectively manage and track concussion symptoms.

The initiative has been launched by Vodafone, Founding Principal Partner of Wales Women’s and Girls’ Rugby, who have added the technology to its revolutionary PLAYER.Connect platform, which aggregates data from athletes’ wearable devices in real-time, allowing for instant analysis.

The addition will, for the first time outside of a research environment, enable players’ concussion data to be viewed side-by-side with their menstrual cycle data, also meaning concussion data can be captured and analysed more frequently and quickly than ever before.

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Joanna Perkins, Head Physiotherapist, Wales Women said: “The technology gives us real-time information on our athletes and their symptoms, including their cycle phases and any potential concussion symptoms.

“This lets us intervene more easily, as well as enabling us to capture trends for individual players too. So, if we see a drop in certain data, we can determine if it’s the norm for the player [at that stage of her menstrual cycle] or if it is indicating that something else is going on, which is incredibly useful information to have and act on.”

The Wales Women’s Rugby Team has been trialling the concussion tracking module since November 2023 - including in the lead up to the 2024 Guinness Women’s Six Nations - and will continue to do so throughout the remainder of the tournament and beyond.

This follows the implementation of Vodafone PLAYER.Connect’s original menstrual cycle tracking module, which has been in use by Wales Women’s Senior and Pathway teams since February 2023.

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Vodafone PLAYER.Connect gathers data on players’ performance, menstrual cycle phases and mental and physical wellbeing, by automating input from players and coaches.

Hannah Jones, Wales Women’s Captain and speaking ahead of this weekend's Women's Six Nations clash against Ireland, said: “Concussion monitoring is really important for players, so being able to track and monitor this type of data through this is amazing.

“The app gives us the ability to see if a player’s symptoms are caused by a concussion or by the phases of their menstrual cycle. This helps us, the staff and our coaches to better manage our health, wellbeing and ultimately our performance out on the pitch.”

John Mulcahy, Performance Consultant, Vodafone PLAYER.Connect, said: “The addition of the concussion module is really significant. It’s the first time outside of a research environment that we’ve been able to get holistic data that looks at how the menstrual cycle might affect their [concussion] recovery and their symptoms.