"Incredibly Useful" - Wales Women Using Vodafone App to Monitor Concussion Symptoms Alongside Menstrual Cycle - Ruck

“Incredibly Useful” – Wales Women Using Vodafone App to Monitor Concussion Symptoms Alongside Menstrual Cycle

There are some very interesting developments happening in Wales, as the WRU is at the forefront to better understanding concussions within women’s rugby. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI’s) have become far more discussed and understood in recent years, yet there is still plenty of space to grow the through ongoing research in the women’s game.

A certain area where concussion research is currently being explored, is through analysing data from TBI’s, alongside the hormones of the female rugby player’s menstrual cycle. The Wales Women’s national rugby team have been using the Vodafone Player.CONNECT app over the past year, to better understand the impact of the menstrual cycle upon training loads and match day requirements. An upgrade to the app has recently been launched to monitor concussion symptoms, for the players and coaches to better track and manage a return to play protocol.

Leading names within the Wales Women squad gathered with the Vodafone technology experts last week, to introduce the launch of the new concussion-orientated upgrade to the app. The two worlds came together in Cardiff, to provide the fallow week of the 2024 Women’s Six Nations with an important update for the future of the game. Wales Women’s captain Hannah Jones said;

“Concussion monitoring is really important for players, so being able to track and monitor this type of data through Vodafone PLAYER.Connect 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.”

Battling Wales back row Alisha Butchers echoed her captains thoughts, about how the technology has had a profound impact upon her training. Speaking from Cardiff exclusively to Ruck, Butchers gave her perspective on how the concussion and menstrual cycle monitoring has been very beneficial to her performance.

“The app’s been amazing. Been using it for about a year as you said, yeah that’s one of the first things that I wanted to do (monitor symptoms), I think that it was really cool. So, every morning, we all come in, we all train, and we all get onto our own little iPads, and put in how we feel, exactly how we’re feeling that day.”

“Obviously it is something that’s very personal, when they as us how we are feeling that day, if we’ve got any injuries, any particular soreness in any of our bodies. And then, we go onto the menstrual tracker with the app, where we’re able to monitor feelings with our periods, and any of the symptoms that we are feeling at different phases of our periods.

“We might not necessarily be on our periods, but we might be feeling symptoms, which is really important to know. Because, it might just affect you throughout the month, and dealing with the time that you are actually bleeding. So, it’s been a pretty cool app for us, and I think it’s really helped us with our performance and adapting our training around that.”

Coming in from a physiologically perspective, Wales Women Physio Jo Perkins has also been impressed by the unveiled technology. The health and fitness guru believes that the programme is an important step forward for the WRU and women’s sport as a whole, especially as the increase understanding of concussions in female athletes continues.

“Vodafone PLAYER.Connect  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.”

Jo Perkins – Image Credit: WRU

Recent studies have presented evidence that concussions have different levels of impact upon men and women, with the University of Birmingham and Swansea University fronting up the research. Reports suggest that whiplash injuries from a head bouncing off the ground when tackled, can cause a greater risk of concussions within women than male players. Also, Perkins explained how such studies show that concussive symptoms also reportedly lasting for longer durations and at a higher severity in female athletes, than their male counterparts.

“So we know that, that research is pretty definitive, and rugby across all teams are bringing in neck strengthening (training) to try and mitigate that. So then potentially are, the menstrual cycle factors that may change, the symptoms that a female may experience so potentially in the metaphase, which is a phase where progesterone and oestrogen are higher.

“If a woman sustained a concussion then, which could potentially have more prolonged or severe symptoms. Which we believe may be due to due when progesterone suddenly drops in a period. So that’s something we’re hoping to see and add to that research if there was a link there.

John Mulcahy, Performance Consultant at Vodafone PLAYER.Connect, added his thoughts upon the importance of the app: “The addition of the concussion module to Vodafone PLAYER.Connect 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.

“It’s a major step forward in ensuring the wellbeing of the players and helping to close that data gap for all female athletes, whatever their level.”