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Head Impact Sensor Triggering Bias Introduced by Linear Acceleration Thresholding

Abstract

Contact sports players frequently sustain head impacts, most of which are mild impacts exhibiting 10–30 g peak head center-of-gravity (CG) linear acceleration. Wearable head impact sensors are commonly used to measure exposure and typically detect impacts using a linear acceleration threshold. However, linear acceleration across the head can substantially vary during 6-degree-of-freedom motion, leading to triggering biases that depend on sensor location and impact condition. We conducted an analytical investigation with impact characteristics extracted from on-field American football and soccer data. We assumed typical mouthguard sensor locations and evaluated whether simulated multi-directional impacts would trigger recording based on per-axis or resultant acceleration thresholding. Across 1387 impact directions, a 10g peak CG linear acceleration impact would trigger at only 24.7% and 31.8% of directions based on a 10 g per-axis and resultant acceleration threshold, respectively. Anterior impact locations had lower trigger rates and even a 30 g impact would not trigger recording in some directions. Such triggering biases also varied by sensor location and linear-rotational head kinematics coupling. Our results show that linear acceleration-based impact triggering could lead to considerable bias in head impact exposure measurements. We propose a set of recommendations to consider for sensor manufacturers and researchers to mitigate this potential exposure measurement bias.

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Acknowledgments

The current study is supported by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.

Conflict of interest

Dr. Wu is a co-inventor on an issued U.S. Patent 10,172,555 titled ’device for detecting on-body impacts’ assigned to Stanford University. The authors report no other potential conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Lyndia C. Wu.

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Associate Editor Stefan M. Duma oversaw the review of this article.

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Wang, T., Kenny, R. & Wu, L.C. Head Impact Sensor Triggering Bias Introduced by Linear Acceleration Thresholding. Ann Biomed Eng 49, 3189–3199 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10439-021-02868-y

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Keywords

  • Head impact sensors
  • Head impact exposure
  • Subconcussive impacts
  • Impact triggering
  • Linear acceleration threshold
  • Triggering bias