Press Release | 08 Apr 2024

Vodafone and WRU launch new feature to track impact of the menstrual cycle on concussion

For the first time outside of a research environment, the mobile-first Vodafone PLAYER.Connect platform allows concussion data to be viewed side-by-side with menstrual cycle data.

  • Vodafone is trialling new concussion tracking technology, via its revolutionary PLAYER.Connect platform, to help female athletes better track and manage the symptoms of concussion.
  • Vodafone PLAYER.Connect is a landmark platform that helps female athletes understand how the menstrual cycle impacts performance, wellbeing and recovery.
  • The mobile-first platform now allows concussion data to be viewed side-by-side with menstrual cycle data for the first time outside of a research environment.
  • Research from the University of Birmingham suggests that female athletes may suffer both a higher rate of concussion and more severe and prolonged symptoms than male counterparts, with hormone variation noted as a key factor.
  • The Wales Women’s Rugby Team has been trialling the concussion module since November 2023, including throughout the 2024 Guinness Women’s Six Nations.

Vodafone, Founding Principal Partner of Wales Women’s and Girls’ Rugby, has added new concussion tracking technology to its revolutionary PLAYER.Connect platform, to help female athletes better track and manage the symptoms of concussion.

Concussion remains the most common injury within rugby. Reducing the risk of concussion, and mitigating its short- and long-term symptoms, is 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.

Vodafone launches new menstrual cycle tracking technology with the Women’s Welsh Rugby Union

The new menstrual tracking programme is part of Vodafone’s PLAYER.Connect platform, which aggregates data from athletes’ wearable devices in real-time, allowing for instant analysis.

By integrating concussion tracking into its PLAYER.Connect platform, Vodafone aims 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 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. It also means concussion data can be captured and analysed more frequently and quickly than ever before.

The Wales Women’s Rugby Team has been trialling the Vodafone PLAYER.Connect 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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Joanna Perkins, Head Physiotherapist, Wales Women said of the tech: “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.”

Vodafone PLAYER.Connect gathers data on players’ performance, menstrual cycle phases and mental and physical wellbeing, by automating input from players and coaches. The new concussion module helps track symptoms including headaches, nausea and balance by integrating a digital version of the SCAT5 symptom evaluation protocol, as well as monitoring recovery. A breakdown of the SCAT5 protocol and data captured is available below.*

As a mobile-first platform, Vodafone PLAYER.Connect also allows players, medical staff and coaches to monitor athletes’ health and wellbeing even when outside of training camp. This is a crucial advantage for national teams and allows always-on monitoring of concussion recovery.

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Hannah Jones, Wales Women’s Captain, 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.”

John Mulcahy, Performance Consultant, Vodafone PLAYER.Connect, said: “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.”

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Mark Huckerby, Head of Sponsorship at Vodafone UK, said: “It’s such an exciting time to be involved in women’s rugby and with the rise in engagement, investment and involvement, we’re seeing the game grow to new levels.

“I’m really proud of the role Vodafone is playing in this journey, through our partnership with the Wales Women’s rugby team and innovative technologies like our PLAYER.Connect platform.

“It’s great that we are able to help the team perform at the highest level, as they compete against Europe’s finest during this year’s Guinness Women’s Six Nations.”

In addition to the trial, Vodafone is working with Cardiff Metropolitan University on a long-term research study using the data gathered from Vodafone PLAYER.Connect to further investigate the impact of concussion and the menstrual cycle, given only 6% of current sports science research focuses on female athletes.

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Alongside supporting players and coaches in the elite game, this research aims to provide comprehensive insights that can benefit all female athletes, no matter their level. By better understanding the impact of the menstrual cycle on health, wellbeing and performance, this research can help inform physios and sports scientists across the industry, allowing them to develop new diets and programmes that are better tailored to women.

This latest feature builds on Vodafone’s broader commitment to use its connectivity and innovative technology to support the continued growth of women’s rugby. Through its partnerships, Vodafone has rolled out PLAYER.Connect to Wales Women’s Under-18s, the two new women’s Celtic Challenge teams representing Wales, Gwalia Lightning and Brython Thunder, and the Armed Forces Women’s Rugby Team. This is in addition to Cardiff University, The University of Edinburgh, and Durham University through its new ‘EmpowHER’ bursary in partnership with The Good, The Scaz and The Rugby.

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As Founding Principal Partner of Women’s and Girls’ Rugby in Wales, Vodafone is supporting the Welsh Rugby Union to develop their elite female pathway and grassroots game, with the aim of reaching over 10,000 female players by 2026 – evidenced by its partnership with the cross-border Celtic Challenge tournament.

Vodafone is also a Principal Partner of men’s and pathway (U20s and U18s) rugby in Wales, uniting all teams within one partnership.

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Notes to Editors

Full data currently being collected by Vodafone PLAYER.Connect includes:

  • Information on players’ bodyweight, sleep quality and quantity, mood, energy, health, medications, injury and soreness, collected via the morning monitoring questionnaire.
  • Results from the players’ physical screening exercises (sit and reach, knee to wall, and adductor squeezes), conducted daily to identify tightness, pain, and injury risk.
  • Information on each players’ menstrual cycle phases and associated symptoms.
  • Concussion data on symptoms including memory, headaches, nausea and balance. Data is captured via an automated version of the SCAT5 symptom evaluation.

About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK is a technology communications company that connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed-line connections, home and office broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

We have a strong track record as a tech pioneer, making the UK’s first mobile phone call, sending the first text message, and making the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G in 2018. We were the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester and now have 5G in locations across Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain as well as the UK. Meanwhile, our 4G network coverage currently reaches over 99% of the UK population.

Today, Vodafone serves more than 18 million mobile and fixed-line customers in the UK. Vodafone is the largest provider of full fibre in the UK – our superfast broadband services are now available to nearly 12 million homes across the UK.

Sustainability is also at the heart of what we do: as of 1 July 2021, 100% of the grid electricity we use in the UK is certified to be from renewable sources.

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