The Effect of Visual and Sensory Performance on Head Impact Biomechanics in College Football Players


The development of prevention strategies is critical to address the rising prevalence of sport-related concussions. Visual and sensory performance may influence an individual’s ability to interpret environmental cues, anticipate opponents’ actions, and create appropriate motor responses limiting the severity of an impending head impact. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between traditional and visual sensory reaction time measures, and the association between visual and sensory performance and head impact severity in college football players. Thirty-eight collegiate football players participated in the study. We used real-time data collection instrumentation to record head impact biomechanics during games and practices. Our findings reveal no significant correlations between reaction time on traditional and visual sensory measures. We found a significant association between head impact severity and level of visual and sensory performance for multiple assessments, with low visual and sensory performers sustaining a higher number of severe head impacts. Our findings reveal a link between level of visual and sensory performance and head impact biomechanics. Future research will allow clinicians to have the most appropriate testing batteries to identify at-risk athletes and create interventions to decrease their risk of injurious head impacts.

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This study was supported in part by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment. None of the authors have any financial interest in any of the systems used for this study. We thank Nike for the provision of equipment used in this study.

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Correspondence to Jason P. Mihalik.

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Associate Editor Stefan M. Duma oversaw the review of this article.

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Harpham, J.A., Mihalik, J.P., Littleton, A.C. et al. The Effect of Visual and Sensory Performance on Head Impact Biomechanics in College Football Players. Ann Biomed Eng 42, 1–10 (2014).

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  • Concussion
  • Football
  • Injury prevention
  • Kinematics
  • Mild traumatic brain injury
  • Sports biomechanics
  • Vision