The Influence of Heavier Football Helmet Faceguards on Head Impact Location and Severity

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Abstract

Objective:

To determine whether players with heavier faceguards have increased odds of sustaining top of the head impacts and head impacts of higher severity.

Design:

Cohort study.

Setting:

On-field.

Participants:

Thirty-five division I collegiate football players.

Interventions:

Faceguard mass was measured. Head impact location and severity (linear acceleration [gravity], rotational acceleration [radian per square second], and Head Impact Technology severity profile [unitless]) were captured for 19 379 total head impacts at practices using the Head Impact Telemetry System.

Main Outcome Measures:

Players' faceguards were categorized as either heavier (>480 g) or lighter (≤480 g) using a median split. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were computed for sustaining top of the head impacts between faceguard groups using a random intercepts generalized logit model. We compared head impact severity between groups using random intercepts general linear models (α = 0.05). Player position was included in all models.

Results:

Overall, the 4 head impact locations were equally distributed across faceguard groups (F(3,26) = 2.16, P = 0.117). Football players with heavier faceguards sustained a higher proportion impacts to the top of the head (24.7% vs 17.5%) and had slightly increased odds of sustaining top (OR, 1.72; 95% CI, 1.01-2.94) head impacts rather than front of the head impacts.

Conclusions:

Football players wearing heavier faceguards might be slightly more prone to sustaining a higher proportion of top of the head impacts, suggesting that greater faceguard mass may make players more likely to lower their head before collision. Individuals involved with equipment selection should consider the potential influence of faceguard design on head impact biomechanics when recommending the use of a heavier faceguard.

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