October 13, 2022
For adolescent football players, head impact exposure increases as level of contact increases, with higher cumulative head-impact frequency and magnitude with live drills, according to a study published online Oct. 13 in Pediatrics.
Kyle A. Kercher, Ph.D., from the School of Public Health-Bloomington at Indiana University, and colleagues conducted a prospective, multisite study in one season involving 74 players from three high school football teams. Each of the players wore a sensor-installed mouthguard, which monitored head-impact frequency, peak linear acceleration, and peak rotational acceleration.
A total of 7,312 impacts were recorded, with a per-player median of 67 impacts. The researchers found increases in head-impact outcomes by level of contact after controlling for duration (air < bags < control < thud < live). Cumulative head-impact frequency and magnitude per player were higher for live drills than other levels. The lowest cumulative frequency and magnitude were seen for air drills.
“Empirical support for the levels-of-contact system in the current study provides further evidence that the system may present a practical means to regulate head-impact exposure,” the authors write. “The study results point to the importance of continued research dissecting the structural elements of football practice, such as intensity level, to determine practical, feasible, and scalable approaches to minimizing head-impact exposure while maintaining tackle football as a viable physical activity opportunity.”