To compare accelerational forces to the head in high school-level football, hockey, and soccer athletes.
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.
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).
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.