Head-Impact-Measurement Devices: A Systematic Review

J Athl Train. 2017 Mar;52(3):206-227. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050.52.2.05.


Context: With an estimated 3.8 million sport- and recreation-related concussions occurring annually, targeted prevention and diagnostic methods are needed. Biomechanical analysis of head impacts may provide quantitative information that can inform both prevention and diagnostic strategies.

Objective: To assess available head-impact devices and their clinical utility.

Data sources: We performed a systematic search of the electronic database PubMed for peer-reviewed publications, using the following phrases: accelerometer and concussion, head impact telemetry, head impacts and concussion and sensor, head impacts and sensor, impact sensor and concussion, linear acceleration and concussion, rotational acceleration and concussion, and xpatch concussion. In addition to the literature review, a Google search for head impact monitor and concussion monitor yielded 15 more devices.

Study selection: Included studies were performed in vivo, used commercially available devices, and focused on sport-related concussion.

Data extraction: One author reviewed the title and abstract of each study for inclusion and exclusion criteria and then reviewed each full-text article to confirm inclusion criteria. Controversial articles were reviewed by all authors to reach consensus.

Data synthesis: In total, 61 peer-reviewed articles involving 4 head-impact devices were included. Participants in boxing, football, ice hockey, soccer, or snow sports ranged in age from 6 to 24 years; 18% (n = 11) of the studies included female athletes. The Head Impact Telemetry System was the most widely used device (n = 53). Fourteen additional commercially available devices were presented.

Conclusions: Measurements collected by impact monitors provided real-time data to estimate player exposure but did not have the requisite sensitivity to concussion. Proper interpretation of previously reported head-impact kinematics across age, sport, and position may inform future research and enable staff clinicians working on the sidelines to monitor athletes. However, head-impact-monitoring systems have limited clinical utility due to error rates, designs, and low specificity in predicting concussive injury.

Keywords: accelerometer; biomechanics; concussion.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Boxing / injuries
  • Brain Concussion / diagnosis*
  • Brain Concussion / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Football / injuries
  • Head
  • Head Protective Devices*
  • Hockey / injuries
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Soccer / injuries
  • Sports Medicine / instrumentation
  • Telemetry
  • Young Adult