Inertial sensors are commonly used to measure human head motion. Some sensors have been tested with dummy or cadaver experiments with mixed results, and methods to evaluate sensors in vivo are lacking. Here we present an in vivo method using high speed video to test teeth-mounted (mouthguard), soft tissue-mounted (skin patch), and headgear-mounted (skull cap) sensors during 6-13 g sagittal soccer head impacts. Sensor coupling to the skull was quantified by displacement from an ear-canal reference. Mouthguard displacements were within video measurement error (<1 mm), while the skin patch and skull cap displaced up to 4 and 13 mm from the ear-canal reference, respectively. We used the mouthguard, which had the least displacement from skull, as the reference to assess 6-degree-of-freedom skin patch and skull cap measurements. Linear and rotational acceleration magnitudes were over-predicted by both the skin patch (with 120% NRMS error for a(mag), 290% for α(mag)) and the skull cap (320% NRMS error for a(mag), 500% for α(mag)). Such over-predictions were largely due to out-of-plane motion. To model sensor error, we found that in-plane skin patch linear acceleration in the anterior-posterior direction could be modeled by an underdamped viscoelastic system. In summary, the mouthguard showed tighter skull coupling than the other sensor mounting approaches. Furthermore, the in vivo methods presented are valuable for investigating skull acceleration sensor technologies.
Keywords: Head impact sensors; High speed video; Instrumented mouthguard; Instrumented skin patch; Instrumented skull cap; Soft tissue modeling; Traumatic brain injury; Wearable sensors.