Sobering Early Research

Last October, Purdue University released their first study on concussions and hits that high school players take in a season.  The take-away message from that initial study was;

Purdue researchers who monitored the helmets of 21 Lafayette Jefferson High School players found that players may be damaging their brains even if they have not been diagnosed with a concussion.

Another year and another set of data brings the West Lafayette group (Evan Breedlove, Eric Nauman, Lenny Leverenz, Thomas Talavage, Jeffrey Gilger, Meghan Robinson, Katherine E. Morigaki,  Umit Yoruk, Kyle O’Keefe, & Jeffrey King) – called the Purdue Neurotrauma Group – back into focus, now beginning to confirm their working hypothesis;

“The most important implication of the new findings is the suggestion that a concussion is not just the result of a single blow, but it’s really the totality of blows that took place over the season,” said Eric Nauman, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and an expert in central nervous system and musculoskeletal trauma. “The one hit that brought on the concussion is arguably the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Using the same techniques of; neurocognitive testing, functional MRI and helmet impact telemetry the Purdue group is finding that there may just be a hit limit that one can sustain.  In their admittedly small population players sustained between 200-1900 hits to the head in the season, ranging in force from 20 G’s to nearly 300 G’s.

“Now that we know there is definitely a buildup of damage before the concussion occurs, ultimately, there is hope that we can do more to prevent concussions,” Nauman said.

This information, with further research, can be extrapolated to other sports; soccer being the main concern with the routine heading of a ball (the linked article explains that a header can register at 20 G’s).  The PNG is also looking to investigate gender differences as their research proceeds.  The recent study will be published in the online version of Journal of Biomechanics.

The take-home message now is; “how much is too much”?

3 thoughts on “Sobering Early Research

  1. joe bloggs February 3, 2012 / 10:59

    While the sample is small, it supports the hypothesis the small repeated injuries are a major issue contributing to CTE, PCS and concussion (Barry Jordan’s work in boxers 20 years ago is being affirmed). It makes sense as boxers seldom seek one grand blow but weaken their opponent by applying the jab. I would be interested as the study expands to investigate not only Gs, I believe this is over simplifying the physics, and model the rotational, torsion and shearing associated with various hits that may play a more central role in the neurological pathology than acceleration.

    Purdue is very reputable institution and I will look forward to reading the study.

  2. Jake Benford February 3, 2012 / 18:00

    I also believe this group is doing very good work. The original research showed lineman with significant “sub-clinical” deficits in testing even when they have not been diagnosed with a concussion or had any symptoms. They associated this with multiple sub-concussive blows throughout the year.

    What I think this and other research is showing is that there is damage after any hit. The threshold for symptoms is likely due to a sum total from the damage. That damage might come from a single hit or the accumulation of multiple hits without time to repair. The severity of symptoms also depends on the sum total of damage. Basically it is all a continuum, from damage with no symptoms to severe PCS and CTE.

    The take home message is that damage is being done with every hit, and that damage will build on itself if not allowed to heal.

  3. G. Malcolm Brown July 3, 2016 / 22:54

    Those lesser “Dings” are from hard helmets clashing.. The old leather hats..Did not cause them on low speed hits…!

    Dr. Stefan Duma , calculates “BILLIONS “..of minor “dings” happen each season..when hard helmets bounce together..!

    We were recently issued Patent # US 9,332,800 view @ USPTO.GOV

    This new concept .. reduces all rotational forces,, denatures all low speed hits ( “dings”..). is safer when striking others..and more protective to the wearer.

    —- Lighter, cooler.. less costly to school systems.

    This concept will save kids from brain traumas ..Pop Warner to Pros…!

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