Touchdown? High school and collegiate football players sustain nearly same level of head impacts

August 11, 2006

According to research released at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, high school football players sustain almost the same level of head impact as college players. This news is important to bear in mind as another Fall football season comes on at high schools nationwide.

According to research released at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, high school football players sustain almost the same level of head impact as college players. This news is important to bear in mind as another Fall football season comes on at high schools nationwide.

"We found that about 1% of the college level hits are above a concussion threshold," said lead author Brock Schnebel, MD, clinical professor at the University of Oklahoma and McBride Clinic in Oklahoma City. "At the high school level, about 0.7% of impacts are above a concussion threshold. The kind of hits that high school players take are almost at the same level as college players. High school athletes need to be monitored as closely as we are monitoring college players."

To measure the impact inside helmets, researchers used regular football helmets fitted with special accelerometer pads. The information was stored in a microchip located in the helmet. (In real-world athletics, that information can be sent to a beeper carried by the trainer or team physician on the sideline.)

During the 2005 football season, Dr. Schnebel and colleagues collected practice and game impact data from the football helmets worn by players at both a university and a high school to compare head impact frequency and magnitude between NCAA Division I and high school football players. They analyzed the data from 62,480 recorded impacts and found that college players sustained concussion-level impacts more often than high school players but that impact accelerations were only slightly higher for college players.