High School Girls

August 9, 2012

Study Leader Explains Crash Test Dummy Head Trials

Joint US Lacrosse-NOCSAE study measures stick-to-head impacts in girls, women's lacrosse

by Paul Ohanian | LaxMagazine.com | Photo Gallery

Dr. Trey Crisco, a member of the US Lacrosse Sports Science and Safety Committee, led a July 26 "crash test dummy" research session at Brown University, where several female lacrosse players, aged 12 to 28, were asked to take 36 swings at a headform.
© Mike Cohea/Brown University

We recently visited Dr. Trey Crisco at the Bioengineering Lab in the Department of Orthopaedics at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island. Through a study funded by NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment) and US Lacrosse, Crisco is testing and measuring head accelerations from stick checks in girls and women's lacrosse.

Late last month, after five months of product development, design and setup, finally came "game day" for Crisco and his team. Several female lacrosse players, aged 12 to 28, were asked to take 36 swings at a customized crash test dummy headform, which was fitted with an accelerometer that captured the resulting movement. The sticks were also fitted with sensors to measure stick speed and accelerations. Designated spots on the front, side and top of the headform were marked as targets for the players. Measurements were recorded on each swing and are being analyzed.

Crisco, a member of the US Lacrosse Sports Science and Safety Committee and the director of the bioengineering lab at Brown, is also the father of three daughters, ranging in age from 13 to 22, who have all played or are still playing lacrosse. He has coached girls' youth lacrosse for 12 years and was the goalie coach and junior varsity coach at Yale University during his graduate school years. He wholeheartedly supports maintaining the unique culture of girls' and women's lacrosse.

LM: Walk us through the logistics of setting up this head acceleration study?

TC: The primary aim of this part of our study is to understand the relationship between stick checks and head accelerations. This grant that we received through both US Lacrosse and NOCSAE is just one piece in trying to understand what the potential injury mechanism is for head injuries in girls' lacrosse. Previously, there have been epidemiological studies and surveillance studies that have found that the majority of head injuries in girls' lacrosse occur from the stick. These are inadvertent, obviously, and could be a result of follow-throughs from shots, or fore checks. Unlike the boys' game, where head injuries are dominated by body-to-body or head-to-head contact, in the girls, we don't see that; but we are seeing the stick impacting the head. So the goal of this study was to get an understanding of the relationship between the severity of the stick checks and the resulting head accelerations.

Do we know that certain rates of acceleration equal certain severities of injury?

That's the holy grail of concussion studies, to document the relationship between head acceleration and concussion. We're not there yet. We know that above 90Gs or 120Gs, you are more likely than not to get a concussion, but there's not a definitive threshold. It's unlikely that there will be across all people because people are different and there's variability. But there are other factors, like where you get hit and what your previous exposures were. We're still in the process, through other studies, of coming up with that relationship.

Were the stick speeds used by the subjects in the study similar to real-game stick speeds?

We had the girls in this study check the head form at medium severity and then again with their most aggressive motion. We would never expect to see those types of accelerations in a game, so we are being conservative. We have a pretty good idea of where college stick speeds are. This study will give us a pretty good idea of where youth girls' stick speeds are. The impacts that we are measuring are at the upper end of the severity.

How much does player age matter in the relevancy for this study?

From our related studies in other sports, we know that the only thing that is going to differ is the speed of the stick. All the other factors, like player size, reduce to stick speed. When we finish collecting the data, we'll have an entire spectrum of data, going from youth to college, and then we'll be able to see what those differences are, but we think that the severity of the impacts will vary by stick speeds and not by group. Clearly, stick speeds increase by age and experience.

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