Can hockey helmets be safer? Western researchers 'check' the issue head on

A selection of hockey helmets is shown in this file photo.

A player skates up the ice with the puck, precision focus on their goal, they don’t see the body check coming from the side and suddenly they’re laying on the ice suffering a possible concussion due to an indirect blow to the head.

This is an all too real scenario in hockey games, one that many Canadians are familiar with, and while helmet technology has improved leaps and bounds it could still be possible to make them safer.

A team of researchers at Western University has been researching how to make helmets safer and sharing those results with Bauer Hockey in the hopes of designing better headgear.

The engineering team led by Canada Research Chair Haojie Mao put a simulated brain through numerous tests and ultimately found that current helmet technology is good at absorbing direct hits.

But what of indirect hits?

Simulating 672 different impact scenarios the team found that rotational velocity was the most common factor when brain strain (twisting or wrenching brain tissue beyond its limits) occurred.

The resulting problem is torque, meaning a movement twist on impact, and could lead to a mild traumatic brain injury.

The team published their findings in the journal Annals of Biomedical Engineering.

The hopes are that the results can help influence future designs of helmets, specifically using brain injury metrics.

More than 69-million people experience a mild traumatic brain injury per year.

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