UNH research shows helmetless-tackling drills significantly reduce head impact

December 22, 2015

UNH Research Shows Helmetless-Tackling Drills Significantly Reduce Head Impact

DURHAM, N.H. - The national debate around football-related head impacts, and their relationship to concussions and spinal injuries, continues to raise concern in the United States. Sparked by efforts to help make the sport safer for players, research at the University of New Hampshire has found that a novel set of helmetless-tackling drills are effective in reducing head impacts by 28 percent in one season.

The study, conducted by Erik Swartz, professor and chair of the department of kinesiology at UNH, was released early online and will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Athletic Training. The study can be reviewed at: http://natajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.4085/1062-6050-51.1.06.

Research findings are for the first year of a two-year study that tested helmetless-tackling drills and their effectiveness in reducing head impact in 50 football players at the University of New Hampshire, a NCAA Division I team. The purpose was to see if this innovative technique, called the HuTTTM intervention program, could alter tackling behavior and ultimately reduce head injury exposure.

"The idea of taking off the football helmet during practice to reduce head impact may seem counterintuitive to the sport," said Swartz. "But the findings show that preventing head impacts, which can contribute to spine and head injuries like concussions, may be found in behavior modification like these drills."

The randomized controlled trial divided the athletes into two groups; an intervention group (25 players) and a control group (25 players). Before each workout session, an xPatch head-impact sensor was placed on the skin just behind the right ear (over the right mastoid) of each athlete. The xPatch monitored the frequency, location, and acceleration of all the head impacts.

Football players in the intervention group performed five-minute tackling drills without their helmets and shoulder pads twice a week in preseason and once a week during football season. The intervention drills consisted of repetitions of proper tackling into an upright pad, tackling dummy, or a teammate holding a padded shield, at a 50 to 75 percent effort. The control group performed non-contact football skills at the same time, rate and duration. Both groups were supervised by the UNH football coaching staff. At the end of one football season, the intervention group that had performed the helmetless-tackling training program had experienced 30 percent fewer head impacts per exposure than the control group.

"This behavior modification is not only about alleviating head impacts that can cause injuries now, but reducing the risk of concussive impacts that can lead to long-term complications later in life," said Swartz. "These helmetless drills could help to make it safer to play football."

According to the study, high school and college football players can each sustain more than 1,000 impacts in a season, while youth players may sustain 100 during that same timeframe. "The extent to which this intervention may yield similar outcomes in younger players with less experience and physical maturity is still unknown. We are currently in the first year of a high school study focused on four high schools in New Hampshire," adds Swartz.

If future investigators replicate the current findings, Swartz says the eventual adoption of helmetless-tackling training may improve public health and decrease associated economic burden by reducing the risks of football-related head and neck injuries.
-end-
More information about the HuTTTM intervention program can be found at http://www.huttprogram.com.

The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 13,000 undergraduate and 2,500 graduate students.

REPORTER AND EDITOR'S NOTE: Video news package for download can be found at https://youtu.be/4Y24z6_orRs. Extra sound bites can be found at https://youtu.be/Q3PlcGz0t0U. Additional B-Roll is available upon request.

PHOTOS AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD

http://www.unh.edu/news/releases/2015/12/images/img-5RS47769__JMG3676-lpr.jpg
Erik Swartz, professor and chair of the department of kinesiology at The University of New Hampshire
Photo Credit: University of New Hampshire

http://www.unh.edu/news/releases/2015/12/images/img-2RS47756__JMG3606-lpr.jpg
UNH Football players perform intervention drills consisting of helmetless-tackling repetitions into an upright pad, tackling dummy, or a teammate holding a padded shield
Photo Credit: University of New Hampshire

http://www.unh.edu/news/releases/2015/12/images/img-6RS48060__JMG5354-lpr.jpg
xPatch head-impact sensor monitors the frequency, location, and acceleration of all the head impacts
Photo Credit: University of New Hampshire

University of New Hampshire

Related Football Articles from Brightsurf:

Reasons for football injuries
If professional footballers are out of action due to injuries, this can have serious consequences for the club.

The best players are passionate about football
Sogndal football/soccer teams from Vestland county in Norway have now been studied by specialists.

Study provides the first data on concussion risk in youth football
'These are the first biomechanical data characterizing concussion risk in kids,' said Steve Rowson, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics and the director of the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab.

Changes in cardiovascular risk factors among college football players
Researchers recruited 126 college football players from two programs in Georgia and South Carolina to examine over three years how cardiovascular risk factors emerged and changed, including weight, blood pressure and heart structure and function.

Over-conditioning kills: Non-traumatic fatalities in football is preventable
Most non-traumatic fatalities among high school and college football athletes do not occur while playing the game of football, but rather during conditioning sessions which are often associated with overexertion or punishment drills required by coaches and team staff, according to research presented today at the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine Annual Meeting.

American football: The first quarter is crucial
Researchers from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire have found evidence that players born in the first quarter of the year are more likely to play in the National Football League.

How do professional football players perform under immense pressure?
Professional football players need to keep a cool head during a match, but some are better at this than others.

New findings on concussion in football's youngest players
New research from Seattle Children's Research Institute and UW Medicine's Sports Health and Safety Institute found concussion rates among football players ages 5-14 were higher than previously reported, with five out of every 100 youth, or 5 percent, sustaining a football-related concussion each season.

Youth football changes nerve fibers in brain
MRI scans show that repetitive blows to the head result in brain changes among youth football players, according to a new study.

Playing youth football could affect brain development
Young football players may experience a disruption in brain development after a single season of the sport, according to a new study.

Read More: Football News and Football Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.