Burnaby, British Columbia – Scientists at Simon Fraser University have found that adding a layer of polyurethane foam to ice hockey players’ shoulder pads could reduce the incidence of concussion.
The most common cause of concussion among ice hockey players is shoulder-to-head contact, accounting for 42% of concussions among NHL players. The shoulder pads are designed to protect the wearers from impact, but most have rigid plastic caps. This increases the likelihood of players delivering checks that lead to concussion in the opponent.
The SFU team, led by Steve Robinovitch, tested the addition of an outer layer of soft polyurethane foam over the shoulder cap to see if it might reduce the severity of shoulder-to-head impacts. They then got collegiate-level ice hockey players to deliver “comfortably hard” checks to the head of a body-checking dummy, equipped with triaxial accelerometers and gyros mounted in its helmet. These were performed wearing conventional pads, and also foam-protected ones.
They found that pads with a 2cm-thick layer of foam resulted in a 25% reduction in the peak linear acceleration of the head, and a 12% reduction in peak rotational velocity. “[This] lends support for modifications to shoulder pads to protect the brain health of hockey players,” the researchers claim.
Reference: S. Virani et al. Med. Sci. Sports Exercise, 2017, 49, 573