Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 1–13 | Cite as

Rotational Head Kinematics in Football Impacts: An Injury Risk Function for Concussion

  • Steven RowsonEmail author
  • Stefan M. Duma
  • Jonathan G. Beckwith
  • Jeffrey J. Chu
  • Richard M. Greenwald
  • Joseph J. Crisco
  • P. Gunnar Brolinson
  • Ann-Christine Duhaime
  • Thomas W. McAllister
  • Arthur C. Maerlender


Recent research has suggested a possible link between sports-related concussions and neurodegenerative processes, highlighting the importance of developing methods to accurately quantify head impact tolerance. The use of kinematic parameters of the head to predict brain injury has been suggested because they are indicative of the inertial response of the brain. The objective of this study is to characterize the rotational kinematics of the head associated with concussive impacts using a large head acceleration dataset collected from human subjects. The helmets of 335 football players were instrumented with accelerometer arrays that measured head acceleration following head impacts sustained during play, resulting in data for 300,977 sub-concussive and 57 concussive head impacts. The average sub-concussive impact had a rotational acceleration of 1230 rad/s2 and a rotational velocity of 5.5 rad/s, while the average concussive impact had a rotational acceleration of 5022 rad/s2 and a rotational velocity of 22.3 rad/s. An injury risk curve was developed and a nominal injury value of 6383 rad/s2 associated with 28.3 rad/s represents 50% risk of concussion. These data provide an increased understanding of the biomechanics associated with concussion and they provide critical insight into injury mechanisms, human tolerance to mechanical stimuli, and injury prevention techniques.


Mild traumatic brain injury Head Helmet Angular Acceleration Sports HITS 



The authors gratefully acknowledge our sponsors for this research including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Toyota Central Research and Development Labs, and the National Institutes of Health (National Institute for Child Health and Human Development) R01HD048638 and (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) R01NS055020. The authors also thank Josh Tan and the Center for Biomedical Imaging at Wake Forest University for assistance with the imaging illustration.

Conflict of interest

Joseph J. Crisco, Richard M. Greenwald, Jeffrey J. Chu and Simbex have a financial interest in the instruments (HIT System, Sideline Response System (Riddell, Inc)) that were used to collect the data reported in this study.


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Rowson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stefan M. Duma
    • 1
  • Jonathan G. Beckwith
    • 2
  • Jeffrey J. Chu
    • 2
  • Richard M. Greenwald
    • 2
    • 3
  • Joseph J. Crisco
    • 4
  • P. Gunnar Brolinson
    • 5
  • Ann-Christine Duhaime
    • 6
  • Thomas W. McAllister
    • 7
  • Arthur C. Maerlender
    • 8
  1. 1.School of Biomedical Engineering & SciencesVirginia Tech-Wake Forest UniversityBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.SimbexLebanonUSA
  3. 3.Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  4. 4.Department of OrthopaedicsThe Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Rhode Island HospitalProvidenceUSA
  5. 5.Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic MedicineBlacksburgUSA
  6. 6.Pediatric NeurosurgeryDartmouth Hitchcock Medical CenterHanoverUSA
  7. 7.Department of Psychiatry and NeurologyDartmouth Hitchcock Medical SchoolLebanonUSA
  8. 8.Department of PsychiatryDartmouth Hitchcock Medical CenterHanoverUSA

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