AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 4, 2017

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Head Impacts and Collegiate Football Practice and Games

In a study recently published in the Journal of Neurosurgery, researchers from the University of Virginia (UVa) examined the number and severity of subconcussive head impacts sustained by college football players over an entire season during practices and games. The researchers examined head impacts sustained by UVa football players during 10 helmet-only practices, 29 shell (also known as half-pad) practices, 27 full-pad practices and 12 games. The three categories of practices are significant because the level of protective equipment worn is generally a good proxy measure for the intensity of a practice, according to the authors of the study. Under their helmets, each player wore an impact-sensing patch over the left or right mastoid process. The patch measured the linear and rotational acceleration of each head impact. The researchers collected data on the number of impacts, the average severity of impacts, and the head impact burden for each type of practice and for games. In all, 890 instances of head impacts in 16 players were examined. Results from the study showed that the number of head impacts varied depending on the intensity of the activity. The games had the largest mean number of head impacts, followed by full-pad, shell, and helmet-only practices. This pattern was also apparent when the researchers examined the cumulative distributions of both linear and rotational acceleration (the impact burden). Again, games had the largest cumulative distribution of both linear and rotational acceleration, followed by full-pad, shell, and helmet-only practices. The researchers discussed the fact that citing a general lack of data, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has not established clearly defined rules concerning the intensity of practices or the number of live-contact practices during a season or postseason. To read more about this study, click here.

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