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Environmental and Physiological Factors Affect Football Head Impact Biomechanics

MIHALIK, JASON P.1,2; SUMRALL, ADAM Z.1; YEARGIN, SUSAN W.3; GUSKIEWICZ, KEVIN M.1,2; KING, KEVIN B.4; TRULOCK, SCOTT C.5; SHIELDS, EDGAR W.1

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: October 2017 - Volume 49 - Issue 10 - p 2093–2101
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001325
Applied Sciences

Purpose: Recent anecdotal trends suggest a disproportionate number of head injuries in collegiate football players occur during preseason football camp. In warmer climates, this season also represents the highest risk for heat-related illness among collegiate football players. Because concussion and heat illnesses share many common symptoms, we need 1) to understand if environmental conditions, body temperature, and hydration status affect head impact biomechanics; and 2) to determine if an in-helmet thermistor could provide a valid measure of gastrointestinal temperature.

Methods: A prospective cohort of 18 Division I college football players (age, 21.1 ± 1.4 yr; height, 187.7 ± 6.6 cm; mass, 114.5 ± 23.4 kg). Data were collected during one control and three experimental sessions. During each session, the Head Impact Telemetry System recorded head impact biomechanics (linear acceleration, rotational acceleration, and severity profile) and in-helmet temperature. A wet bulb globe device recorded environmental conditions, and CorTemp™ Ingestible Core Body Temperature Sensors recorded gastrointestinal temperature.

Results: Our findings suggest that linear acceleration (P = 0.57), rotational acceleration (P = 0.16), and Head Impact Technology severity profile (P = 0.33) are not influenced by environmental or physiological conditions.

Conclusions: We did not find any single or combination of predictors for impact severity. Rotational acceleration was approaching significance between our early experimental sessions when compared with our control session. More research should be conducted to better understand if rotational accelerations are a component of impact magnitudes that are affected due to changes in environmental conditions, body temperature, and hydration status.

1Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center, Department of Exercise and Sport Science, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC; 2Curriculum in Human Movement Science, Department of Allied Health Sciences, School of Medicine, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC; 3Exercise Science Department, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC; 4The Carolina Panthers, Charlotte, NC; and 5Jacksonville Jaguars, Jacksonville, FL

Address for correspondence: Jason P. Mihalik, Ph.D., C.A.T.(C), A.T.C., Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2201 Stallings-Evans Sports Medicine Complex, Campus Box 8700, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8700; E-mail: jmihalik@email.unc.edu.

Submitted for publication July 2016.

Accepted for publication May 2017.

© 2017 American College of Sports Medicine