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Vodafone wearables track rugby players’ health
- April 18, 2023
- William Payne
Vodafone is tracking rugby players’ and performance in real time with wearables. The fitness and performance programme is part of Vodafone’s PLAYER.CONNECT platform, which aggregates data from athletes’ wearable devices in real-time, and provides instant analysis.
The technology is being used by Vodafone to track Wales Women’s Rugby team to analyse how the menstrual cycle impacts performance, wellbeing and recovery. The team is using Vodafone’s technology throughout its TikTok Women’s Six Nations campaign, the first female side to do so. Recent studies show that 67% of female rugby players believe menstrual cycle-related symptoms severely impact their performance.
Vodafone PLAYER.Connect was first used by the British & Irish Lions, an international rugby team made up of players picked from the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish national rugby teams, during their 2021 South Africa Tour, throughout their training and preparation and across all three Test matches.
A Founding Principal Partner of Women’s and Girls’ Rugby, Vodafone is committed to providing female athletes with the support they need to help manage these symptoms and is working with Cardiff Metropolitan University in Wales on a long-term research study using the data gathered from PLAYER.Connect.
The platform is currently being used by Wales Women throughout the Women’s Six Nations 2023 campaign and beyond, the first women’s side to do so. This has already had a significant impact on their training and preparation, with WRU National Women’s Physiotherapist, Jo Perkins, saying: “PLAYER.Connect gives us information in real time, and is far more user friendly. That means we can quickly implement strategies, inform change, avoid injuries, and help players reach their peak preparation ahead of each fixture.”
Vodafone’s mobile-first PLAYER.Connect platform gathers data on players’ performance, menstrual cycle phases and mental and physical wellbeing, by combining data from wearable devices such as GPS trackers in real time. This is in addition to input from the players themselves, via daily ‘morning monitoring’ – a series of questions answered by the players on arrival at training. A full breakdown of the data being captured is available in the notes below.
By directly linking athletes’ performance data to their menstrual cycle, PLAYER.Connect lets coaches and analysts provide genuine tailoring of diet, training and match preparation for each individual player. This is a major upgrade on existing menstrual cycle tracking technology, which doesn’t allow for this personalisation or tailoring, and only provide generic, ‘catch-all’ solutions.
93% of female rugby players have reported menstrual cycle-related symptoms, with 67% believing these symptoms severely impair their performances. So far, however, there is limited guidance available on how players can best manage those symptoms, with only 6% of current sports science research focusing on female athletes. As Founding Principal Partner of Women’s and Girls’ rugby, Vodafone is seeking to close this gap, and provide female athletes with the support they need to help manage these symptoms.
Vodafone is also working with Cardiff Metropolitan University on a long-term research study, using the data gathered from PLAYER.Connect, to further investigate the impact of the menstrual cycle on areas ranging from concussion and injury prevention to soreness, mood and sleep. The ambition is to provide information that can help all female athletes of all levels better manage their performance and wellbeing in the future.
Wales Women prop, Cerys Hale, said: “The PLAYER.Connect technology has really improved my performance this season. It’s given me a greater awareness of things I need to do away from the field, so for example I can monitor any soreness, be more aware of how I’m recovering and then look at what I can do before training to help manage injury prevention. This includes tips on how I can change my nutrition during each of the phases of my cycle, how I can reduce my symptoms, and it’s just given me more confidence that I’m putting my body in the right place to be able to perform.”
PLAYER.Connect Head of Performance, Alex Skelton, said: “Despite 93% of female rugby players reporting menstrual cycle-related symptoms and 67% believing these severely impair their performances, there is limited guidance available on how players can best manage this.
“Being able to directly link each athlete’s menstrual cycle stage to their performance data provides a massive advantage in how we can begin to tackle this issue, by allowing coaches and analysts to move away from ‘catch-all’ solutions and provide genuine tailoring of diet, training and preparation for each individual player. Combined with a long-term research study using our PLAYER.Connect data, this will allow us to make huge strides in how we help female athletes of all levels better understand and manage their cycle.”
Vodafone’s UK Chief Commercial Officer, Max Taylor, said: “At Vodafone we are committed to using our network to find innovative ways to support the growth of women’s rugby in the UK from the grassroots up. We are only in the early stages of a long partnership with the WRU and we’re looking forward to working with the team in the coming years to deliver on our ambitious plans.”
The further development of the platform builds on Vodafone’s broader commitment to use its connectivity and innovative technology to support the continued growth of women’s rugby. As Founding Principal Partner of Women’s and Girls’ rugby, Vodafone will work with the WRU to support the development of their elite female pathway, and continue to grow the grassroots game, with the aim of reaching over 10,000 female players in Wales by 2026.