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Biomechanical Properties of Concussions in High School Football


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2010 - Volume 42 - Issue 11 - p 2064-2071
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181dd9156
Applied Sciences

Introduction: Sport concussion represents the majority of brain injuries occurring in the United States with 1.6-3.8 million cases annually. Understanding the biomechanical properties of this injury will support the development of better diagnostics and preventative techniques.

Methods: We monitored all football related head impacts in 78 high school athletes (mean age = 16.7 yr) from 2005 to 2008 to better understand the biomechanical characteristics of concussive impacts.

Results: Using the Head Impact Telemetry System, a total of 54,247 impacts were recorded, and 13 concussive episodes were captured for analysis. A classification and regression tree analysis of impacts indicated that rotational acceleration (>5582.3 rad·s−2), linear acceleration (>96.1g), and impact location (front, top, and back) yielded the highest predictive value of concussion.

Conclusions: These threshold values are nearly identical with those reported at the collegiate and professional level. If the Head Impact Telemetry System were implemented for medical use, sideline personnel can expect to diagnose one of every five athletes with a concussion when the impact exceeds these tolerance levels. Why all athletes did not sustain a concussion when the impacts generated variables in excess of our threshold criteria is not entirely clear, although individual differences between participants may play a role. A similar threshold to concussion in adolescent athletes compared with their collegiate and professional counterparts suggests an equal concussion risk at all levels of play.

1Neurotrauma Research Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL; 2Departments of Orthopedics and Athletics, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; 3Motor Control Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL; 4National Institute of Statistical Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC; 5Department of Statistics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL; and 6Department of Sports Medicine, Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana, IL

Address for correspondence: Steven P. Broglio, Ph.D., 906 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana, IL 61801; E-mail:

Submitted for publication October 2009.

Accepted for publication March 2010.

©2010The American College of Sports Medicine