Ann Biomed Eng. 2023 Sep 20. doi: 10.1007/s10439-023-03369-w. Online ahead of print.
Wearable sensors are used to quantify head impacts in athletes, but recent work has shown that the number of events recorded may not be accurate. This study aimed to compare the number of head acceleration events recorded by three wearable sensors during boxing and assess how impact type and location affect the triggering of acceleration events. Seven boxers were equipped with an instrumented mouthguard, a skin patch, and a headgear patch. Contacts to participants’ heads were identified via three video cameras over 115 sparring rounds. The resulting 5168 video-identified events were used as reference to quantify the sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value (PPV) of the sensors. The mouthguard, skin patch, and headgear patch recorded 695, 1579, and 1690 events, respectively, yielding sensitivities of 35%, 86%, and 78%, respectively, and specificities of 90%, 76%, and 75%, respectively. The mouthguard, skin patch, and headgear patch yielded 693, 1571, and 1681 true-positive events, respectively, leading to PPVs for head impacts over 96%. All three sensors were more likely to be triggered by punches landing near the sensor and cleanly on the head, although the mouthguard’s sensitivity to impact location varied less than the patches. While the use of head impact sensors for assessing injury risks remains uncertain, this study provides valuable insights into the capabilities and limitations of these sensors in capturing video-verified head impact events.