Rotational head kinematics in football impacts: an injury risk function for concussion

Ann Biomed Eng. 2012 Jan;40(1):1-13. doi: 10.1007/s10439-011-0392-4. Epub 2011 Oct 20.


Recent research has suggested a possible link between sports-related concussions and neurodegenerative processes, highlighting the importance of developing methods to accurately quantify head impact tolerance. The use of kinematic parameters of the head to predict brain injury has been suggested because they are indicative of the inertial response of the brain. The objective of this study is to characterize the rotational kinematics of the head associated with concussive impacts using a large head acceleration dataset collected from human subjects. The helmets of 335 football players were instrumented with accelerometer arrays that measured head acceleration following head impacts sustained during play, resulting in data for 300,977 sub-concussive and 57 concussive head impacts. The average sub-concussive impact had a rotational acceleration of 1230 rad/s(2) and a rotational velocity of 5.5 rad/s, while the average concussive impact had a rotational acceleration of 5022 rad/s(2) and a rotational velocity of 22.3 rad/s. An injury risk curve was developed and a nominal injury value of 6383 rad/s(2) associated with 28.3 rad/s represents 50% risk of concussion. These data provide an increased understanding of the biomechanics associated with concussion and they provide critical insight into injury mechanisms, human tolerance to mechanical stimuli, and injury prevention techniques.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / etiology
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Brain Concussion / etiology
  • Brain Concussion / physiopathology*
  • Football / injuries*
  • Football / physiology
  • Head Movements / physiology*
  • Head Protective Devices
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk
  • Rotation
  • Sports Equipment
  • Telemetry