Comparative Analysis of Head Impact in Contact and Collision Sports

J Neurotrauma. 2017 Jan 1;34(1):38-49. doi: 10.1089/neu.2015.4308. Epub 2016 Nov 17.


As concerns about head impact in American football have grown, similar concerns have started to extend to other sports thought to experience less head impact, such as soccer and lacrosse. However, the amount of head impact experienced in soccer and lacrosse is relatively unknown, particularly compared with the substantial amount of data from football. This pilot study quantifies and compares head impact from four different types of sports teams: college football, high school football, college soccer, and college lacrosse. During the 2013 and 2014 seasons, 61 players wore mastoid patch accelerometers to quantify head impact during official athletic events (i.e., practices and games). In both practices and games, college football players experienced the most or second-most impacts per athletic event, highest average peak resultant linear and rotational acceleration per impact, and highest cumulative linear and rotational acceleration per athletic event. For average peak resultant linear and rotational acceleration per individual impact, college football was followed by high school football, then college lacrosse, and then college soccer, with similar trends in both practices and games. In the four teams under study, college football players experienced a categorically higher burden of head impact. However, for cumulative impact burden, the high school football cohort was not significantly different from the college soccer cohort. The results suggest that head impact in sport substantially varies by both the type of sport (football vs. soccer vs. lacrosse) and level of play (college vs. high school).

Keywords: adult brain injury; epidemiology; head trauma; pediatric brain injury; subconcussion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry / instrumentation*
  • Accelerometry / methods
  • Adolescent
  • Athletes
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Brain Concussion / diagnosis
  • Brain Concussion / physiopathology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Football / injuries*
  • Head Protective Devices / trends*
  • Humans
  • Pilot Projects
  • Racquet Sports / injuries*
  • Schools / trends
  • Soccer / injuries*
  • Universities / trends
  • Young Adult