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Plastic dasher boards improve safety of ice hockey rinks
15 May 2012
Suomen Akatemia (Academy of Finland)
Body checking is an essential part of professional ice hockey. In recent years, the number of injuries caused by body checking has increased.
In a recent study, researchers at the Department of Biology of Physical Activity at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, examined whether the shock absorbing properties of different dasher board structures and materials have an effect on the probability of injuries. The measurements consisted of two parts. In the first part, the physiological properties of body checking against the boards were studied in real-life game situations. In the second part, body checking against the boards was simulated in a laboratory. In the lab tests, the maximum force inflicted on the boards by body checking and the displacement of the board were measured and, with the help of these measurements, the rigidity of the dasher board system was calculated.
The study revealed that the shock absorbing properties of different types of boards differed a great deal. The difference in the impact forces measured from the most flexible board – in which the glazing is made of plastic – and from the conventional dual base frame – in which the glazing is made of tempered glass – was over 25% in some cases. The differences in displacement were also remarkable: the displacement of the most flexible board was over 130% greater in some cases than that of the reference board. The most flexible board was found to have only about a third of the rigidity of the conventional one.
In dasher board systems with support posts, the shock absorbing properties of metallic support posts were much poorer than those of a system with a flexible plastic shield. The maximum impact force of a body check against a support post was up to 70% higher than the maximum impact force of a similar body check against a protective shield. Moreover, the posts were up to five times more rigid than a plastic shield.
“By replacing the widely used tempered glass with a plastic shield, the impact force on players being body checked against the boards is considerably reduced,” say Professor Janne Avela and Researcher Piritta Poutiainen.
However, dasher board systems with a plastic shield and metallic posts are not a safe alternative, because the metallic posts can cause serious injuries in body checking situations due to their rigidity, even if the plastic shield is flexible. Another way to reduce the force of impact is to lower the height of the board – in this way, a larger part of the impact force caused by a body check falls on the flexible shield.
The study was carried out in cooperation between the University of Jyväskylä and Raita Sport Oy, and was financed by Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.