University of Florida, National Football League partner to study on-field head impacts

by | Nov 17, 2022

  • The University of Florida is partnering with the National Football League to study the effects of on-field head impacts on player health 
  • The study will utilize mouthguards with embedded sensors to measure the severity of blows to the head 
  • Using the data, the NFL will analyze how it can improve player safety during games 
  • UF football players can voluntarily opt into the study 

The University of Florida (UF) entered a collaborative research partnership with the National Football League (NFL) this week to study the effects of on-field head impacts on players.

The study will employ novel mouthguard sensors to analyze information on injury reduction initiatives at the professional and collegiate levels, including rule modifications and the utilization of specialized equipment such as position-specific helmets.

Data-collecting sensor-equipped mouthguards are part of the NFL’s attempts to improve the health and safety of football players at all levels, with the goal of reducing concussions and, more generally, all dangerous hits to the head.

Using collected data, NFL engineers and health advisors will analyze the frequency and severity of impacts in games and practices. The data from the mouthguard sensors will supplement identical data collection underway at four NFL teams.

Consequentially, the league’s approach to injury reduction will be better informed, including adjustments that may involve rule modifications, safety equipment, and refined training methods.

“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with the NFL to assist them in collecting more data to better understand on-field head impacts,” said Dr. James Clugston, Team Physician at UF. “The research will continue to help make the game of football safer and will guide us to develop best practices for equipment design, rules of competition, and practice drills.”

The NFL in recent years has grappled with public outcry regarding the prevalence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative brain disease caused by repeated hits to the head, in retired players.

Memory loss, difficulties thinking, and behavioral changes such as impulsivity and aggression are all possible symptoms of the condition.

A recent study found that in a sample of 202 deceased players of American football from a brain donation program, CTE was neuropathologically diagnosed in 177 players across all levels of play (87 percent), including 110 of 111 former National Football League players (99 percent).

The NFL has undertaken a series of initiatives to prevent the onset of CTE in players including equipment changes and tweaks to game rules to discourage direct hits to the head.


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