Virginia Tech Concussion Study Expands Beyond Football

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Since 2003, researchers at the Virginia Tech - Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences have been compiling impact data from college football players using sensor-embedded helmets, resulting in a rating system for commercially developed football helmets. In 2011, the study was expanded to include helmets, with the intent of establishing safety ratings by 2016, as well as updating the existing ratings for football helmets.

The expansion follows new research published in the January issue of Annals of Biomedical Engineering that allows for better prediction of sports-related concussions. The updated ratings for football helmets will take into account data related to linear and rotational accelerations starting in 2015.

"All head impacts result in both linear and rotational accelerations, and this publication provides the foundation for our research to address both accelerations relative to reducing the risk of concussion," said project director Stefan Duma. "Our goal with the five-year plan is to provide manufacturers with a schedule detailing when we will release helmet ratings for each sport."

Concussion research remains an ongoing effort by organizations nationwide. The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment announced on Thursday the funding of $855,657 in sports medicine and concussion research grants.

"Scientific research is essential to advancing the safety of athletes of all ages and effectively addressing the issue of sports concussions," said Mike Oliver, NOCSAE executive director. "The approved research grants will support some of the top scientists and researchers in the world, and will continue to inform and evolve NOCSAE athletic equipment standards."

The goals of concussion research are to better understand the causes of concussions and design equipment that reduces an athlete's risk of concussion, but that's only part of the issue, says Duma. "It is important to note that no helmet can prevent all concussions. The most effective strategies to reduce concussions in sports involve modifying league rules and player technique to limit exposure to head impacts."

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