Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 90–96 | Cite as

The Effect of Play Type and Collision Closing Distance on Head Impact Biomechanics

  • Karen E. Ocwieja
  • Jason P. MihalikEmail author
  • Stephen W. Marshall
  • Julianne D. Schmidt
  • Scott C. Trulock
  • Kevin M. Guskiewicz


Football accounts for 55% of concussions to collegiate athletes. In the National Football League, players are at a greater risk for concussion during kickoffs and punts compared to rushing and passing plays. The two primary purposes of this study were to determine if game-related special teams head impacts were greater in magnitude than head impacts sustained during offensive and defensive plays, and to better understand the effect closing distance between players (short vs. long) had on head impact magnitude. Collegiate football players were enrolled in a prospective cohort study assessing head impact biomechanics during special teams, offensive, and defensive collisions; long closing distance (≥10 yards) and short closing distance (<10 yards) impacts were also studied. Data were analyzed using random intercepts general linear mixed models. Long closing distance collisions generated more severe head impacts than short closing distances. Collisions occurring on special teams plays over long closing distances were most severe while collisions occurring on special teams and defensive plays over short closing distances resulted in the least severe impacts. Decreasing the impact severity of collisions in collegiate football may be accomplished by reducing the closing distance prior to impact.


Biomechanics Concussion Helmet Injury threshold Mild traumatic brain injury 



This study was supported in part by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Athletic Trainers’ Association Research & Education Foundation, and the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen E. Ocwieja
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jason P. Mihalik
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stephen W. Marshall
    • 3
    • 4
  • Julianne D. Schmidt
    • 1
  • Scott C. Trulock
    • 5
  • Kevin M. Guskiewicz
    • 1
  1. 1.Matthew A. Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center, Department of Exercise and Sport ScienceUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.United States Olympic CommitteeLake PlacidUSA
  3. 3.Department of EpidemiologyUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.Injury Prevention Research CenterUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  5. 5.Campus Health ServicesUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA

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