Objectives: To evaluate associations between pre-season oculomotor performance on visual tracking tasks and in-season head impact incidence during high school boys ice hockey. Design Prospective observational study design. Methods: Fifteen healthy high school aged male hockey athletes (M = 16.50 ± 1.17 years) performed two 30 s blocks each of a prosaccade and self-paced saccade task, and two trials each of a slow, medium, and fast smooth pursuit task (90° s−1; 180° s−1; 360° s−1) during the pre-season. Regular season in-game collision data were collected via helmet-mounted accelerometers. Simple linear regressions were used to examine relations between oculomotor performance measures and collision incidence at various impact thresholds. Results: The variability of prosaccade latency was positively related to total collisions for the 20 g force cutoff (p = 0.046, adjusted R2 = 0.28). The average self-paced saccade velocity (p = 0.020, adjusted R2 = 0.37) and variability of smooth pursuit gaze velocity (p = 0.012, adjusted R2 = 0.47) were also positively associated with total collisions for the 50 g force cutoff. Conclusions: These results provide preliminary evidence that less efficient oculomotor performance on three different oculomotor tasks is associated with increased incidence of head impacts during a competitive ice hockey season. The variability of prosaccade latency, the average self-paced saccade velocity and the variability of gaze velocity during predictable smooth pursuit all related to increased head impacts. Future work is needed to further understand player initiated collisions, but this is an important first step toward understanding strategies to reduce incidence of injury risk in ice hockey, and potentially contact sports more generally.
- eye tracking
- smooth pursuit