Studying repetitive head impacts, concussions in ice hockey players

[JESSIE OLDHAM] Concussion exposure
– a lot of people think that football, simply because it does have the highest number of participants, is the highest exposure rate. But actually if you look at collegiate athletes, football is fourth behind wrestling and men’s and women’s ice hockey. [MELISSA DiFABIO] In this study, we’re trying to look at not necessarily concussions, but the role of repetitive head impacts. So not every time that you’re going to sustain an impact to the head, it will end up being enough of a force that causes a concussion. We are trying to see what, if anything, changes over the course of a competitive ice hockey season, which is a collision sport where they take many hits to the head, not all of which are concussive. [KATIE BREEDLOVE] Before the hockey season
started, players came in and did some clinical baseline testing. We also did something in the gait lab where they were walking, looking at how they walked over time, how they started walking, ended walking and their balance. [JESSIE] Even if they don’t suffer a concussion, are they still affected? Is their gait still affected by the number of sub-concussive hits that they take over the course of the season? [KATIE] Then we also did some baseline
Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Then we have the players wear helmet telemetry devices – those little sensors that go underneath their helme, that they wear during practices and home games, and we measure how many impacts, where the impacts occur and how many g-forces – or just basically how hard they’re getting hit. [MELISSA] So if you really think about the way that a concussion can occur, especially in ice hockey, it has a lot to do with how well they’re able to brace their neck. If they’re able to contract that cervical musculature, if they can see someone coming at them or they know they’re about to skate into the boards, they have a sense that someone’s going to hit, them they can brace up a little bit like this so their head doesn’t move back and forth as much. So it’s really those unseen hits or someone’s coming at them from behind or their head is down, and that’s the mechanism that you really worry about.

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