Crisco devised the algorithm that Simbex's Head Impact Telemetry System uses to measure head impacts. The system's development and this study were funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.
The data on head acceleration and hit direction are used to calculate a composite score of exposure called HITsp that researchers believe might be a good predictor of concussion. On average, running backs had the highest HITsp, 36.1, followed by quarterbacks with 34.5 and linebackers at 32.6. Offensive and defensive linemen had the lowest HITsp numbers, with 29.0 and 28.9 respectively, but along with linebackers, they were hit on the head most often. Doctors worry not only about hit severity, but also hit frequency, because repeated head impacts may cause "subconcussive" neurological damage over time.
By analyzing head impacts by position, Crisco said, researchers can help football league officials and equipment designers begin to think about ways to make players safer.
"It will allow us to begin to understand how to control the exposures," Crisco said. Controlling head impact exposure is critical, he added, because there are currently no treatments for acute or chronic brain injuries, and helmets cannot prevent injuries for all players in all situations.
One possibility could include rule changes. Another could include designing helmets for specific positions.
Crisco and his colleagues are now analyzing data about concussions during the three seasons to determine how and whether head impact exposure is associated with injury. He recently co-authored another paper about male and female collegiate hockey players, which reported that although women were diagnosed
|Contact: David Orenstein|