High school football players are sustaining almost the same level of head impacts as college players, according to new research released today at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine at the HERSHEY(R) Lodge and Convention Center.

"We found that about 1 percent of the college level hits is above a concussion threshold," says lead author Brock Schnebel MD, clinical professor at the University of Oklahoma and McBride Clinic in Oklahoma City. "At the high school level, about 0.7 percent of impacts is above a concussion threshold. The kind of hits high school players take are almost at the same level as college players. High school athletes need to be monitored as closely as we are monitoring the college players."

The researchers used regular football helmets fitted with special accelerometer pads to measure the impact inside the helmet. The information is stored in a microchip in the helmet and can also be sent to a beeper carried by the trainer or team physician on the sideline.

During the 2005 football season, Dr. Schnebel and colleagues collected practice and game impact data from the football helmets worn by players at the University of Oklahoma and at Casady High School in Oklahoma City to compare head impact frequency and magnitude between NCAA Division I and high school football players.

The researchers analyzed data from 62,480 recorded impacts and found that college players sustained concussion-level impacts more frequently than high school players and impact accelerations were higher for college players. By position, linemen received the highest number of impacts but most were at a relatively low magnitude. They received a concussion-level impact once every 125 impacts. Skill position players received 24.6 percent of all impacts, averaging a concussion-level impact every 70 hits.

The investigators note that there is little research on the incidence of football head impact severity. Dr. Schnebel says that through this research sports medicine physicians are learning more about protecting the brain, which may influence return-to-play decisions and helmet design. Brain tissue motion during impact is directly related to the clinical manifestations of concussion-related symptoms.

The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) is a national organization of orthopaedic sports medicine specialists. See sportsmed .

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