Quantifying Postural Control, Concussion Risk, and Helmet Performance in Youth Football

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Virginia Tech


As many as 1.9 million sports-related concussions occur annually in youth sports in the United States (U.S.). Often considered a transient injury, research has begun to relate sports-related concussions to long-term neurodegeneration. Youth athletes are considered to be more vulnerable to concussion than their adult counterparts. The research presented in this dissertation was aimed at promoting player safety in youth football as it relates to concussion. Balance dysfunction is often cited as one of the most common symptoms associated with a concussion. Several postural control assessments were assessed in order to develop a youth-specific testing protocol. A cognitive, dual-task assessment was presented for clinician use in the management of sports-related concussion. On-field data collected from youth football players wearing instrumented helmets allowed for characterization of the biomechanics of head impacts and concussions for this population. A youth concussion risk function was developed using head impact data collected from youth football players with medically diagnosed concussions. The proposed testing standard for youth football helmets was assessed in the laboratory and related to on-field head impact data to determine how representative the standard is of youth football head impacts. Helmet safety standards and certifications operate on a pass-fail threshold that does not allow consumers to weigh the relative performance of helmets. A modification of the Summation of Tests for the Analysis of Risk (STAR) evaluation system was developed for youth football helmets. Data presented in this dissertation have direct application to the development of future helmet safety standards and potentially other safety applications as well.



Concussion, Biomechanics, Acceleration, Pediatrics, Balance