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Women Hockey Players Sustain More Heavy Hits Than Previously Thought

Many exceed 50 g threshold at which risk of concussion increases

There are a many more hits in women's college hockey of the kind that can lead to concussion than previously believed, new Canadian research finds.

Researchers from Impakt Protective, a Canadian start-up which makes a wireless hit sensor system called Shockbox, captured data on the frequency and direction of impacts to the heads of women CIS (Canadian Inter-University Sport) ice hockey players during practices and games over the course of a three-month season, with the data sent via Bluetooth connection from Shockbox sensors on top of the players' helmets to a smartphone at rinkside.  To verify and qualify the reported sensor/smartphone alert events, all games and practices were also video recorded using two cameras at intersection angles to capture the entire rink.

Over the course of the season, the Shockbox sensors recorded a total of 80 direct helmet impacts involving 19 different players. While Impakt Protective expected that all but a handful of the hits would be below 50 g, many turned out to be major impacts above the 50 g threshold.  A total of 4 concussions were reported by the team staff, with the hit data all recorded by the helmet sensors. One of the reported concussions was the result of a player collision, two were the result of a fall to the ice, and the fourth was the result of a player collision with the boards.

"The data provides team medical staff with an immediate reference point to begin preventative measures in the form of coaching correction, reduced exposure levels, game time recovery and potential concussion assessment." said Impakt Protective CEO, Danny Crossman. 

Monitoring direct head impacts in hockey has traditionally involved the use of high-cost, three-dimensional research tools for gathering data from helmet sensors during games and practices. The cost and operational demands for using these complex systems has rendered their use cost-prohibitive outside the research arena.  

The development of the Shockbox, a low-cost, non-accelerometer based impact sensor with a smartphone interface, allows a layperson to monitor, track and maintain records of all hits to players' heads. The sensor uses binary force switch technology to capture events above a 50g threshold and report the event to any smartphone platform via Bluetooth in real time.  The system has been found to be reliable and accurate to within 15% of headform linear acceleration in recent laboratory trials (Foreman & Crossman, 2012), and is designed to help parents, coaches and trainers in the identificaion of concussions. It is available in models for several helmeted sports, including hockey, football, lacrosse, and ski and snowboarding.

"We feel strongly about being part of the solution with this very serious concussion issue in sports," says Crossman, "research has been the key to our development and success and our mission to support concussion management programs everywhere so players can continue to enjoy the sport they love."

Impakt will present its findings at the Ontario Medical Association Sport Med 2013 conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Posted January 24, 2013