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Comparison of Impact Data in Hockey, Football, and Soccer

Naunheim, Rosanne S. MD; Standeven, John PhD; Richter, Chris MD; Lewis, Lawrence M. MD

The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care: May 2000 - Volume 48 - Issue 5 - p 938-941
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Purpose To compare accelerational forces to the head in high school-level football, hockey, and soccer athletes.

Methods Acceleration of impact was measured within the helmet of high school hockey and football players during actual game play. A triaxial accelerometer was placed at the vertex of the helmet immediately adjacent to the players head. Peak acceleration (in g ’s) was measured and the Gadd Severity Index and Head Injury Criterion score calculated during actual play periods in several games over four seasons. We also recorded acceleration of head impacts in high school–level soccer players who headed a soccer ball while equipped with a football helmet instrumented identically to the helmet used to record during football games.

Results Peak accelerations inside the helmet for football averaged 29.2 g compared with 35 g for hockey (p = .004). There were no incidents of concussion or other traumatic brain injury during the recorded periods. In contrast, the peak accelerations associated with heading a soccer ball was 54.7 g (p = 2 × 10−5 vs. hockey).

Conclusion Peak accelerations as measured at the surface of the head were 160 to 180% greater from heading a soccer ball than from routine (noninjurious) impacts during hockey or football, respectively. The effect of cumulative impacts at this level may lead to neurologic sequelae.

From the Injury Prevention Center, Division of Emergency Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri.

Address for reprints: Rosanne S. Naunheim, MD, Injury Prevention Center, Division of Emergency Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 South Euclid Avenue, Campus Box 8072, St. Louis, MO 63110; email: naunheim@slu.edu.

Submitted for publication May 24, 1999.

Accepted for publication February 2, 2000.

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.