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As France’s top rugby players scrum, run and tackle they are being tracked by more than just TV cameras and the watching eyes of the crowd. Satnav-based tracking devices between their shoulder blades are keeping tabs on their position and performance—and helping to safeguard their health.
Rugby is inherently highly physical, but the sport is doing everything it can to limit players playing with concussion. The rules are strict: any player suspected of being concussed must leave the field and be tested .
The problem is that often referees, medics or even the players themselves cannot tell when they have experienced sufficiently high-force impacts to pose head injury risks.
Created in 2002, the French Rugby Federation’s Performance Support Department set up wearable GPS-equipped devices to track players’ positions, speed and physiological details such as their heart rates.
“These were useful in monitoring their performance and fatigue,” comments ESA navigation engineer Nicolas Girault, “but in practice monitoring the movements of players could be patchy, especially on match days when they were needed most.”
A new innovative project called GEONAV set out to design an improved monitoring system delivering enhanced monitoring and performance and safety. ESA teamed up with Thales and the French Rugby Federation.
“The major issue was the surrounding environment itself—the stadium,” adds Nicolas. “These are typically half-indoor, half outdoor locations. The extended roof blocks out views of many GPS satellites, and some signals can reflect off its high walls. Known
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