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Mechanism of Injury

A committee of representatives from the NFL Team Physicians Society and the NFL Athletic Trainers Society, NFL equipment managers, and scientific experts in the area of traumatic brain injury recently investigated the location and direction of helmet impacts in the NFL using sophisticated acquisition of high-speed video impact data and biomechanical reconstruction to determine impact velocity, change in head velocity, and acceleration forces.

Data from this study group have demonstrated the striking observation that concussed players in the NFL experienced average head impacts of approximately 21 mph. The change in head velocity of injured players averaged 16 mph, which was significantly higher than the change in head velocity for the uninjured players involved in the collision (average, 9 mph). The majority of concussions occurred by impact with another player’s helmet.

Interestingly, concussion occurred with the lowest head acceleration if a player was struck on the side of the face mask as compared with impacts to other areas of the helmet. Those authors suggest that impacts to the face mask twist the head in addition to accelerating it, and this combination of rotation coupled with translation may influence concussion tolerance. These data provide initial information regarding the biomechanics of athletic concussion in football and begin to provide insight regarding the forces that are required to cause MTBI.

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