The long term effects of concussions in sports are being recognized and concussion treatment and prevention is being intensively studied. The NFL settled a lawsuit with retired NFL players for 765 million dollars over concussion related brain injuries and the NCAA is currently in mediation regarding the same topic. It is estimated that there are 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related concussions that occur annually in the United States.
An important study tool was recently developed by Simbex, a company which focuses on research and development in the area of bio-mechanical feedback. The study tool is the Head Impact Telemetry system (HIT). It was developed by Dr. Joseph “Trey” Crisco who is a Professor of Orthopedics and Director of the Bio-engineering Lab at Brown University and Dr. Richard Greenwald, co-founder of Simbex.
The HIT system is made up of 6 sensors / accelerators that are in a liner that is placed in a football helmet. The HIT system can measure how hard, how often, and the exact location of the helmet impact. With impact of the helmet the accelerators transmit data to a central computer located on the side lines. The computer can be set to notify the sideline physician, athletic trainer, or coach, when a serious level of impact or series of impacts have occurred.
Dr. Steven Broglio and his research team has already put this great research tool to use as described in his paper that was published in the December 2013 issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine. His project assessed how often football players were having helmet contact and the degree of the helmet impact.
The researchers divided up the analysis into three different periods: 1) non contact practice, 2) contact practice, and 3) game play. What they found was very interesting . The average number of impacts per player per season is 774 with a range of 202 to 1,276. The lineman position received the most impacts.
Significantly more impacts occurred during games, with the least amount of impacts during non contact practices. The numbers average 2.4 per non contact practice, 10 per contact practice, and 24 per game.
The authors recommended limiting the number of contact practices per week to one. That would reduce the incidence of impacts by 18% per season. They further calculated that if they eliminated all contact practices it would reduce impacts by 39%.