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"Head Bangers" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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A two-year study of high school football players conducted by Purdue University suggests that concussions are likely caused by many hits over time and not from a single blow to the head, as commonly believed.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

(Sound effect: HS football players) Now That's a Kick in the Head.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: voice on stadium speaker) "Welcome to Sheumann Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana, taking the field for a two-year Purdue study on head trauma and brain function, the Lafayette Jefferson Bronchos." (Sound effect: crowd cheering)

For two seasons, about 20 players were monitored using helmet sensors that measured impact during play. The data from each player was compared with brain imaging scans and cognitive tests given before, during, and after each season.

The researchers focused on how impacts to the head affect brain function. They were particularly interested in concussions. Their findings indicate that concussions are most likely the result of a number of hits not just one massive blow, as commonly believed. Keep in mind that during a single season, each player had between 200 and 1900 hits--Ouch!

The study could provide needed information to help create a better margin of safety for our young players. The researchers are expanding the study to helmetless games like soccer, and girls' teams to see if results differ by gender.

(Sound effect: football hit) Taking one for the team may not be as bad as taking a whole bunch for the team.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's national science foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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