There’s anecdotal evidence that athletes are less likely to get concussions if they were ready for the impact before it arrived, but it’s not an easy premise to test. The primary concerns are ethical ones, of course, as it’s hard to justify enrolling patients in a condition that calls for “sneaking up and, when they’re least expecting it, whacking them in the skull hard enough to deliver a concussion.”
Photo by sphilp1225 via Flickr
Fortunately, researchers for a study published in the June issue of Pediatrics found a clever way to isolate those conditions in a place where they “naturally” occur, namely a youth hockey game.
They started by fitting the young players’ helmets with monitors to measure impact data, then let them play. Researchers then divided the impacts into two categories: Those that occurred along the boards where players expect to be checked, and those that happened mid-ice and were thus more likely to come as a surprise.
Chicago Tribune blogger Julie Deardorff, who alerted us to the study, describes the results:
Of 666 body collisions, 421 took place along the playing boards, and the remaining 245 hits occurred on the open ice. On average, the open-ice collisions were more severe than those occurring along the playing boards, the study authors found.
Deardorff then evaluates youth hockey impacts relative to those in other sports, and ends with the recommendation that youth hockey players “skate through” checks, and keep moving instead of staying put along the boards and absorbing all the kinetic energy of the blow.