As discussion about the effects of brain trauma in football turns to avoiding it in the first place, ideas for reducing hits to the head include eliminating the three-point stance for linemen and strengthening rules regarding headfirst tackles. But the adjustment that many see as the easiest and most practical to make, given that football’s appeal derives in part from its violence, is limiting the number of hits to the head in practice, which data show can be as punishing as the games themselves.
According to a study of three Division I college teams that will be published this month in the Journal of Athletic Training, and was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, college players sustain more total hits to the head in practices than in games. During a full season of practice, each team averaged 2,500 total hits to the head that measured as significant blows (50 to 79 g’s of force) and about 300 hits to the head that were considered in the concussion-causing range (80 to 119 g’s). Each team experienced almost 200 practice collisions that measured above 120 g’s, which experts have likened to crashing a car into a concrete wall at 40 miles an hour.
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