Does Visual Performance Influence Head Impact Severity Among High School Football Athletes?

Clin J Sport Med. 2015 Nov;25(6):494-501. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000143.


Objective: To compare the odds of sustaining moderate and severe head impacts, rather than mild, between high school football players with high and low visual performance.

Design: Prospective quasi-experimental.

Setting: Clinical Research Center/On-field.

Participants: Thirty-seven high school varsity football players.

Interventions: Athletes completed the Nike SPARQ Sensory Station visual assessment before the season. Head impact biomechanics were captured at all practices and games using the Head Impact Telemetry System.

Main outcome measures: Each player was classified as either a high or low performer using a median split for each of the following visual performance measures: visual clarity, contrast sensitivity, depth perception, near-far quickness, target capture, perception span, eye-hand coordination, go/no go, and reaction time. We computed the odds of sustaining moderate and severe head impacts against the reference odds of sustaining mild head impacts across groups of high and low performers for each of the visual performance measures.

Results: Players with better near-far quickness had increased odds of sustaining moderate [odds ratios (ORs), 1.27; 95% confidence intervals (CIs), 1.04-1.56] and severe head impacts (OR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.05-2.01) as measured by Head Impact Technology severity profile. High and low performers were at equal odds on all other measures.

Conclusions: Better visual performance did not reduce the odds of sustaining higher magnitude head impacts. Visual performance may play less of a role than expected for protecting against higher magnitude head impacts among high school football players. Further research is needed to determine whether visual performance influences concussion risk.

Clinical relevance: Based on our results, we do not recommend using visual training programs at the high school level for the purpose of reducing the odds of sustaining higher magnitude head impacts.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletes*
  • Football*
  • Head Injuries, Closed / classification
  • Head Injuries, Closed / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • United States
  • Vision, Low*