Stats paint pic­ture of con­cus­sion risks

In­jury most likely to hap­pen on pass­ing plays, re­view finds


NEW YORK— A video re­view of 459 re­ported con­cus­sions sus­tained dur­ing the past two NFL sea­sons has found far more oc­curred on pass­ing plays than any other plays.

Yet quar­ter­backs ranked at the bot­tom of the list, ahead of only kick­ers, hav­ing suf­fered five per cent of those con­cus­sions.

Of course, only one quar­ter­back is on the field at a time. Po­si­tions in which mul­ti­ple play­ers are in ac­tion at the same time, cor­ner­back and wide re­ceiver, led the list of fre­quency at 22 per cent and 15 per cent, re­spec­tively.

Nearly half of the 459 con­cus­sions (44 per cent) were on passes, while 30 per cent were on run­ning plays, 21 per cent on punt or kick­off re­turns, four per cent on sacks and one per cent on field-goal at­tempts.

The side of the hel­met was the most com­mon im­pact lo­ca­tion at more than 50 per cent, while 41 per cent of con­cus­sions were ex­pe­ri­enced by a player tack­ling an op­po­nent rather than by the player be­ing tack­led or by some­one who was block­ing.

A higher per­cent­age of hel­met-to­body blows, 45 per cent, caused con­cus­sions. Also on the rise were hel­met-to-ground im­pacts at 19 per cent. Hel­met-to-hel­met blows ac­tu­ally de­creased to 36 per cent.

The re­view was over­seen by Dr. Jeff Cran­dall, chair­man of the NFL’s En­gi­neer­ing Com­mit­tee and di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Ap­plied Biome­chan­ics at the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia.

“We’ve seen a shift,” Cran­dall said re­gard­ing hel­met-to-hel­met hits. “Fif­teen to 20 years ago we would have found a much higher rel­a­tive per­cent­age of hel­met to hel­met, as much 70 per cent. Through a num­ber of changes in rules it has al­tered how the game is played and re­duced hel­met-to-hel­met hits.

“We see that hel­met to shoul­der and ground are larger per­cent­ages.”

The data will help in test­ing and eval­u­at­ing hel­mets and other equip­ment. The num­bers are shared with all con­cerned par­ties, from the play­ers to coaches, doc­tors, train­ers, equip­ment de­sign­ers, re­searchers and man­u­fac­tur­ers. Cran­dall said the in­for­ma­tion will be avail­able to other lev­els of foot­ball and to other sports.

The video re­view is one com­po­nent in the NFL’s $60 mil­lion “En­gi­neer­ing Roadmap” de­signed to im­prove the un­der­stand­ing of the biome­chan­ics of head in­juries in the sport. Cran­dall em­pha­sizes the need to cre­ate in­cen­tives for in­no­va­tors to de­velop new and im­proved pro­tec­tive equip­ment.

One por­tion of data that Cran­dall found par­tic­u­larly en­light­en­ing was the fre­quency of im­pacts to the back of the hel­met (35 per cent). He noted that many of those were to quar­ter­backs, who are most vul­ner­a­ble to fall­ing back­ward when hit or sacked.

“After you look at the im­pact source, you break it down by dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions of the hel­met ... where would you be im­pacted on hel­met,” he said. “Quar­ter­backs in par­tic­u­lar, it was 50 per cent and high­est of any po­si­tion, those hits com­ing from head-to-ground im­pacts. About 80 per cent of those are to the up­per rear of the hel­met.”

Like many other physi­cians and sci­en­tists in­volved in con­cus­sion re­search, Cran­dall is ea­ger to ex­plore the wor­thi­ness of po­si­tion-spe­cific hel­mets. That has become a hot topic in the in­dus­try.

“We think it is an op­por­tu­nity we can draft for­ward,” he said. “We’re go­ing to study later with sen­sors and re­con­struc­tions to de­ter­mine the sever­ity, the lo­ca­tions, the im­pact sources. If you can think of tai­lor­ing or cus­tomiz­ing a hel­met for those par­tic­u­lar im­pacts and in­juries, that is an op­por­tu­nity.”

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