|Institution:||University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill|
|Full text PDF:||http://dc.lib.unc.edu/u?/etd,4490|
Mild traumatic brain injuries are one of the most clinically difficult conditions to manage in sports medicine. Better understanding the biomechanics of head impacts will allow clinicians and researchers to better implement interventions designed specifically to reduce the incidence of injury. To date, few studies have looked at the biomechanics of head impacts in the young athlete. The overall objective of this dissertation was to evaluate the biomechanics of head impact severity during participation in youth ice hockey, with a specific evaluation of descriptive factors, and intrinsic and extrinsic factors related to impact biomechanics while playing hockey. We studied a two-year cohort of Bantam and Midget-aged ice hockey players, all of whom participated in all practices and games while wearing specially instrumented helmets capable of measuring head impact measures including linear acceleration, rotational acceleration, and the Head Impact Technology severity profile (HITsp). We also video-recorded every game in the first year of the study and developed an evaluation tool in order to characterize a number of aspects related to relative body positioning and overall anticipation of impending collisions. We also recorded a wide range of information including the number of shifts played, cervical muscle strength, player head and neck anthropometrics, measures of trait aggression, and general aerobic fitness. Our data support the notion that anticipating collisions may play a role in minimizing head impact severity. We also found impacts occurring in the open ice were greater than those occurring along the playing boards. Further, illegal player infractions occur at a relatively high frequency and typically result in higher measures of head impact severity than legal collisions, especially as it pertains to elbowing, head contact, and high sticking infractions to the head. Based on our data, it does not appear that those with stronger neck muscles are better able to mitigate the forces associated with head impacts. Our data suggest a continued need to educate our players with the necessary technical skills needed to heighten their awareness on the ice. Coaches and athletes should incorporate body collision exercises in practices, and spend time educating young athletes on these proper checking techniques in an attempt to minimize the risk of injury and increase the safety of ice hockey.