There is increasing concern that repetitive blows to the head, such as those from heading a soccer ball, can cause measurable cognitive impairment. Reducing acceleration of impact could reduce neurologic sequelae.
Objective: To measure the effectiveness of four different types of soccer headgear in reducing the acceleration of impact.
Methods: A standard magnesium headform was instrumented with a triaxial accelerometer. A soccer ball was propelled at the headform at three different speeds known to occur in soccer play: 9, 12, and 15 m/sec (20, 26, and 34 mph). The main outcome was the peak acceleration of the headform associated with these impacts with and without protective headgear.
Results: Peak accelerations were found in a range from 144 m/s(2) to 289 m/s(2) (14.67-29.5 G, G = 9.81 m/s(2)). Using multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) methods to compare the headbands and controls, there was no significant difference in the measured accelerations at the center of gravity with or without headgear (p = 0.50). However, the interaction term of headbands, pressure, and speed was significant at F = 5.51 and p = 0.00001. Using contrasts within conditions, some headbands were found to cause a decrease in peak acceleration at the highest speed and pressure.
Conclusions: Currently available headgear for soccer heading shows little ability to attenuate impact during simulated soccer heading. However, statistically significant decreases are present at the highest speeds and pressures tested, suggesting the headbands may play a role in decreasing impact for more forceful blows.