Similar head impact acceleration measured using instrumented ear patches in a junior rugby union team during matches in comparison with other sports

J Neurosurg Pediatr. 2016 Jul;18(1):65-72. doi: 10.3171/2015.12.PEDS15605. Epub 2016 Mar 4.


OBJECTIVE Direct impact with the head and the inertial loading of the head have been postulated as major mechanisms of head-related injuries, such as concussion. METHODS This descriptive observational study was conducted to quantify the head impact acceleration characteristics in under-9-year-old junior rugby union players in New Zealand. The impact magnitude, frequency, and location were collected with a wireless head impact sensor that was worn by 14 junior rugby players who participated in 4 matches. RESULTS A total of 721 impacts > 10g were recorded. The median (interquartile range [IQR]) number of impacts per player was 46 (IQR 37-58), resulting in 10 (IQR 4-18) impacts to the head per player per match. The median impact magnitudes recorded were 15g (IQR 12g-21g) for linear acceleration and 2296 rad/sec(2) (IQR 1352-4152 rad/sec(2)) for rotational acceleration. CONCLUSIONS There were 121 impacts (16.8%) above the rotational injury risk limit and 1 (0.1%) impact above the linear injury risk limit. The acceleration magnitude and number of head impacts in junior rugby union players were higher than those previously reported in similar age-group sports participants. The median linear acceleration for the under-9-year-old rugby players were similar to 7- to 8-year-old American football players, but lower than 9- to 12-year-old youth American football players. The median rotational accelerations measured were higher than the median and 95th percentiles in youth, high school, and collegiate American football players.

Keywords: HITS = Head Impact Telemetry System; IQR = interquartile range; K-D = King-Devick; PLA = peak linear acceleration; PRA = peak rotational acceleration; impact; injury; linear; rotational; rugby union; trauma; wireless head impact sensor.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration*
  • Accelerometry / instrumentation*
  • Accelerometry / methods
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / diagnosis
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / prevention & control
  • Ear*
  • Football / injuries*
  • Football / physiology
  • Head Protective Devices
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies