Concussion management software developed by Kiwi technology company CSx has been put to the test by teams in Rugby World Cup 2015 as a UK medical chief calls for rule changes to protect players from head injuries.
The Auckland-based company, founded by former sports therapist Ed Lodge and bankrolled by Blues co-owner Murray Bolton, has been developing the concussion technology for the past four years and saw the World Cup as an opportunity to showcase its product.
The use of its software by World Cup officials comes amid growing awareness of head injuries in contact sports such as rugby, including a BBC Panorama programme on the topic that aired yesterday. World Rugby chief medical officer Martin Raftery said tackling needs to be looked into to make the sport safer, with reported concussions up more than 50 per cent in England in the past five years.
According to the BBC, Raftery will be reviewing video footage of 900 concussions to identify how brain injuries occur and his analysis could lead to rule changes.
Several players at the current World Cup have already sustained head injuries on the field, including Argentina's Guido Petti who suffered concussion after colliding with Dan Carter in yesterday's game against the All Blacks.
CSx chief executive Ed Lodge is in the UK to oversee the use of the company's software, which collects data medical professionals need to act in the best interests of player safety. The cloud-based software tracks the concussion history of a player over their career in whatever country or sport they play and contains all the latest World Rugby head injury assessment protocols to administer pitch side assessments.
Lodge said the software is accessible by tablet, providing team doctors with secure, mobile access to each player's history and baseline data for immediate comparison.
"We have worked closely with World Rugby to provide a system that is intuitive to use and that provides a comprehensive method of ensuring players are both managed and tracked efficiently," Lodge told BusinessDesk.
World Rugby's Raftery said the feedback from users of the software at the World Cup has been overwhelmingly positive.
"The significant advantage of this system is the availability of baseline data for medics who are completing the sideline assessment," he said. "The system will also support compliance with data collection and underpin ongoing research in this critical area of sideline head injury management."
The CSx software has been trialled for the past two seasons by Super Rugby teams the Hurricanes and the Melbourne Rebels.
Lodge said the company is researching a further development - a microchip sensor that can be fitted behind a player's ear and identifies dangerous knocks to the head.
He's taking advantage of having all the teams in one place at the World Cup to have further talks with team officials about use of the software for professional players, with Wales, Scotland and Australia showing early interest. The company is also in talks with commercial partners who would fund its use by amateur players, making it free to the end-user.
Post tournament, the company plans to release a range of sport specific versions of the app tailored to a range of sports that have their own concussion management protocols, with rugby league and football being obvious contenders.
Lodge said CSx was in the throes of another capital rising from individual investors to help fund the company's sales efforts, which are initially focused on Great Britain where there are two million rugby players.
"The market is a lot bigger here (in Great Britain) and we want to get as high a number of subscribers as quickly as we can," he said.
Bolton owns half the company, while Lodge is the majority shareholder in EAG Ltd which holds a 43.3 per cent stake. The rest of the company is held by Castlerock Capital.