Study Shows Football Concussions Occur More Often In Practice

Study Shows Football Concussions Occur More Often In Practice
Published: 2021-07-13

A 2021 study published in JAMA Neurology conducted across five seasons, with 658 NCAA Division 1 players, equipped with Head Impact Telemetry, mostly first-stringers, shows that practice is riskier than games.

Over those five years, 67% of head impacts and 72% of concussions happened in practice.

Not only that, the research goes on to show that the concussions and impacts were by proportion higher during the preseason than in season.

Even within the regular season, total head impacts in practices were 84% higher than in games.

Even though the NCAA, NFL, and Youth Football organizations have lately adjusted their rules as concussion injuries have drawn attention, the study calls for more action.

According to a statement issued by the NCAA, which supported the study, its President Mark Emmert said:  “These latest findings provide new information for our members to modify rules while continuing health education efforts for college athletes across the country."

Dr. Robert Cantu, medical director and director of clinical research at the Cantu Concussion Center at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Mass. wrote an editorial that accompanied the study.  In it, he said the propensity of concussions is why the league agreed to dramatically reduce full-contact practices in the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association.

The NFL now has only 14 full-contact practices in the course of an 18-week season, and none at all in the off-season, Cantu said.

USA Football which promotes football growth says athletes play in different ways and its. Game Types help find the right fit for them. “From Non-Contact to Limited Contact to Contact – it’s all football.”

See NCAA, NFL, and Youth Football most current player safety advisories and rules.

Research has found that the risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) -- the brain injury associated with repeated head traumas is most tied to the total number of hits to the head and not tied to the number of recorded concussions.

 In practice, when the first, second, and third string players are all participating the opportunity for injury is multiplied.  In games, especially close ones, the first-stringers likely play most and are more at risk than the benchwarmers.

The study concludes the data point to a powerful opportunity for policy, education, and other prevention strategies to make the greatest overall reduction in concussion incidence and HIE in college football, particularly during preseason training and football practices throughout the season, without major modification to game play.

"Our data suggest modifying preseason training activities and football practice throughout the season could lead to a substantial reduction in overall concussion incidence and head impact exposure,” says the study’s lead researcher, Michael McCrea, Ph.D., director, Brain Injury Research Program at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.