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The NFL's mouthguard sensor program is ongoing

This week, several PFT Live viewers in the UK shared an item regarding the use of smart mouthguards (they call them "gumshields" over there) in professional rugby, with the question of whether the NFL would ever use technology like that to detect and measure impacts to the head.

The NFL has had a similar program in place for several years, as explained in this November 2022 item from Sports Business Journal. We asked the league for an update on it.

"The mouthguard sensor program is ongoing," chief NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said via email. "In addition to use within the NFL, we’re continuing to work with eight Division I research universities to collect data regarding on-field head impacts to inform injury reduction efforts at the pro and collegiate levels.

"The data collected supplements information we’ve collected at NFL clubs and is meant to ultimately inform injury reduction strategy, rules changes, and the development of higher-performing equipment."

The mouthguards have been "developed to capture the forces and motions unique to football," McCarthy explained. "The sensors embedded in the mouthguards collect kinematic data, including impact speed, direction, force, location, and severity. League engineering partners continue to lead the efforts to collect and analyze the data."

It's unknown for now what the data is or what it will even mean. In rugby, there's already a dispute over how different levels of impact should be studied. There are also questions about the independence, or lack thereof, of the folks doing the research.

The NFL's mouthguard sensor program hasn't gotten to that point yet, because as best we can tell no measurements or results or conclusions have been shared publicly.

To summarize, yes, the NFL has a program similar to rugby's "smart gumshields." But, no, there isn't nearly enough transparency to begin to understand what it all means, and whether there are any flaws or biases impacting the process.