Physicians Hall Front

Dr. Brian Stemper’s latest study links repeated hits to the head to concussions in football players

Football players who experienced frequent, low-grade head impacts in the hours, days, weeks and months leading up to a severe blow to the head were more likely to suffer a concussion, according to new research findings from a study led by Brian Stemper, PhD, associate professor in the department of neurosurgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin and professor of biomedical engineering at Marquette University.

Many previous studies have shown that football players’ brains change over the course of their careers, regardless of whether or not they have been diagnosed with a concussion.

According to Dr. Stemper, there are two drivers of concussions: One is the severe head impact leading to immediate onset of a concussion, and the second is repetitive head impact exposure, accumulating damage to the brain.

Dr. Stemper’s research team sought to determine if repetitive head impact exposure over time contributes to an eventual concussion. They studied 100 NCAA Division I football players: 50 with a diagnosed concussion, matched with 50 others – on the same team and in the same positions – without.

Findings showed 72 percent of the concussed players were more exposed to head impacts either on the day of or during the season leading up to their concussion.
Dr. Stemper explained that the head can be hit only so many times before it reaches a tipping point. The more blows to the head players take, the more likely they are to suffer a concussion.
“This unique analysis provided some evidence for the role of repetitive head impact exposure in the onset of concussion for a cohort of concussed Division I college football athletes,” the study, published in the journal Annals of Biomedical Engineering, explains. “While these trends require further validation, the clinical implication of these findings supports the contemporary trend of limiting head impact exposure for college football athletes during practice activities.”

Recent Publications

Effects of Mild Blast Traumatic Brain Injury on Cognitive- and Addiction-Related Behaviors
Correlation of Concussion Symptom Profile with Head Impact Biomechanics: A Case for Individual-Specific Injury Tolerance.
Prediction of Post-Concussive Behavioral Changes in a Rodent Model Based on Head Rotational Acceleration Characteristics.

In the News

Concussion and college football: How many hits to the head is too much? Science Daily
New Research Offers Insights Into Football-Related Concussions HealthDay News
Concussions Can Occur After Brain Hits ‘Tipping Point’ The University Network
The concussion dilemma in college football: Repeated low-grade hits to the head - not one big blow - are to blame for brain disease The Daily Mail

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