Ice Hockey Concussion Research

The Injury Prevention and Mobility Laboratory also studies sports related injuries, more specifically concussions in ice hockey. We have teamed up with the SFU hockey team to record videos of their games as well as data from helmet mounted sensor to help us characterize head impact mechanisms.

We use this data to guide us in developing strategies to reduce the severity of head impacts and improve the safety of the sport, which we test using a dummy instrumented with a state of the art Hybrid III 50th percentile head form equipped with an array of linear accelerometers to simulate real life hits.

Below are descriptions and examples of our work so far. 

On-ice sensor and video recording of head impacts from the SFU hockey team

Head impacts sustained during hockey games can have serious consequences for the player and his or her team. Concussions are sometimes the result of these impacts and are, of course, something to be avoided.

To better understand the mechanisms under which head impacts occur, the IPML team of researchers have been collecting video footage of the SFU men's hockey team since 2015 as well as helmet mounted sensor data from the players during their games. GForceTracker sensors are attached inside the helmet and record linear acceleration and rotational velocity during head impacts.

A video analysis questionnaire was developed and validated to characterize the circumstances of head impacts recorded on video. At least 2 expert video analysis volunteers evaluated each video for head loading characteristics, anticipation of collision, relationship between the player receiving the head impact and the checker, role of the arm of the checker and game situation. So far, a database characterizing head impact features of more than 340 hits have been collected.  

Some of this work was presented at BPK Research Day 2016.

This information could guide equipment design and playing strategies to reduce the likelihood of serious injuries.

Sample traces of linear acceleration and rotational velocity from helmet mounted GForceTracker sensors for a head impact during a game caused by a head impact from a hockey stick

The most common body parts or objects that come into contact with the head during an impact are shown in the graph. Contact with the glass is most common followed by contact with hands. In many cases, head impact from a hand is the result of fighting rather than game play.

The effect of shoulder pads design on head impact severity during checking

Shoulder-to-head contact is the most common cause of concussions in ice hockey, accounting for 42% of cases in the National Hockey League. The goal of this project was to determine how shoulder pad stiffness, modified by adding foam padding over the shoulder cap of existing shoulder pads, affected head impact severity when participants delivered checks to an instrumented dummy.

When participants delivered checks with foam-modified pads versus unmodified pads, there was a decrease of 25.0% in the average peak linear head acceleration (28.73g vs 38.31g, mean difference = 9.58g, 95% confidence interval = 6.35-12.81, P < 0.0001) and a decrease of 12.4% in the average value of peak rotational head velocity (838.0°·s vs 956.7°·s, mean difference = 118.65°·s, 95% confidence interval = 55.37-181.94, P = 0.001). The protective benefit of the foam layer did not depend on the type of shoulder pad or the checking scenario.

This study was recently published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (Virani S. et al., The effect of shoulder pad design on head impact severity during checking, Med Sci Sports Exerc 49 (3), 573-580. 3 2017)

To simulate head impacts, an instrumented dummy is set up in the lab and positionned using an overhead pulley system. Various modifications to equipment can be tested in realistic head impacts. Illustrated here is a modified shoulder pad to soften the impact to the head while still protecting the checking player.

Linear accelerometers and the SLICE Nano data acquisition system are built into the head of the dummy to record head impact data.