Introduction Wearable sensor systems may be useful for measuring head-impact exposure. Here, we tested the validity of in-ear sensors developed to improve head coupling.
Methods First, the sensor was mounted to a Hybrid III headform (HIII) and impacted with a linear impactor or football. Peak linear acceleration (PLA), peak rotational acceleration (PRA) and peak rotational velocity (PRV) were obtained from both systems; random and systematic error were calculated using HIII as reference. Then, six youth football players wore sensors and performed a structured training protocol including heading and non-heading exercises; they also completed two regular football sessions. For each accelerative event recorded, PLA, PRA and PRV outputs were compared to video recordings. Receiver operating characteristic curves were used to determine the sensor’s discriminatory capacity in both on-field settings, determining cut-off values for predicting outcomes.
Results For the laboratory tests, the random error was 11% for PLA, 20% for PRA and 5% for PRV, respectively; the systematic error was 11%, 19% and 5%. For the structured training protocol, heading events yielded higher absolute values (PLA=15.6±11.8 g) than non-heading events (PLA=4.6±1.2 g); the area under the curve (AUC) was 0.98 for PLA. In regular training sessions, AUC was >0.99 for PLA. A 9 g cut-off value yielded a positive predictive value of 100% in the structured training protocol, compared to only 65% in regular football sessions.
Conclusion The sensor displayed systematic overestimation with considerable random error. Despite excellent on-field accuracy for discriminating head-impacts from other accelerative events, secondary means of verifying events are still necessary.
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