Head Impact Biomechanics in Sport

Implications to Head and Neck Injury Tolerances
  • David C. Viano
Part of the Solid Mechanics and Its Applications book series (SMIA, volume 124)


Head impacts in sport are analyzed, including 1) concussive impacts in professional football simulated in laboratory tests to determine injury mechanisms 2) neck compression forces with head down impacts by striking players and 3) straight punches to the frangible face of the Hybrid III dummy by US Olympic boxers to determine punch force and head dynamics. Concussed NFL players experienced impacts at 9.3 ± 1.9 m/s velocity with 7.2 ± 1.8 m/s head ΔV. Peak acceleration was 98 ± 28 g over 15 ms. Concussion correlated with translational acceleration. The nominal tolerance for concussion was HIC=250. Impact force was 7191 ± 2352 N with 56.1 ± 22.1 g head acceleration in the striking player and 4221 ± 1885 N neck compression force. Nij was greater than tolerance in 1/3rd of the striking players who had neck compression force of 6614 ± 1006 N and Nij of 1.37 ± 0.25. In boxing, the punch force was 3427 ± 811 N, hand velocity 9.14 ± 2.06 m/s and effective punch mass 2.9 ± 2.0 kg. Punch force was higher for the heavier weight classes, due primarily to a greater effective punch mass. Jaw load was 876 ± 288 N and translational acceleration 58 ± 13 g. In the NFL, concussion occurs with considerable impact velocity and head ΔV due to translational acceleration. Olympic boxers deliver straight punches with similar impact velocity, but the punch mass is much lower, so the head ΔV is considerably less than in football concussions. The role of rotational acceleration in concussion is unclear from these studies. Helmets and padding need to reduce HIC to lower the risk of concussion. Neck compression forces often exceed Nij tolerances in professional football. This sports-related biomechanics data is relevant to impact conditions in automotive crashes and the assessment of safety systems.

Key words

human tolerance concussion head-neck injury biomechanics sport 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Hodgson VR. National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment football helmet certification program. Med Sci Sports. Fall; 7(3), 1975, 225–32.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hodgson VR, Thomas LM. Mechanisms of Cervical Spine Injury during Impact to the Protected Head. 24th Stapp Car Crash Conference, Society of Automotive Engineers, Warrendale PA, SAE 801300, 1980.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Vastag B. Football brain injuries draw increased scrutiny. JAMA. Jan 23–30;287(4), 2002, 437–9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Pellman EJ, Viano DC, Tucker AM, Casson IR, Waeckerle JF. Concussion in Professional Football: Reconstruction of Game Impacts and Injuries. Neurosurgery 53(4), 2003, 799–814.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Pellman EJ, Viano DC, Tucker AM, Casson IR, Waeckerle JF. Concussion in Professional Football: Location and Direction of Helmet Impacts-Part 2. Neurosurgery 53, 2003, 1328–1341.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Heck JF, Clarke KS, Peterson TR, Torg JS, Weis MP. National Athletic Trainers' Association Position Statement: Head-Down Contact and Spearing in Tackle Football. J Athl Train. 39(1), 2004, 101–111.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Viano DC, Pellman EJ. Concussion in Professional Football: Biomechanics of the Striking Player — Part 8. Neurosurgery 56, 2005, 266–280.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Atha J, Yeadon MR, Sandover J, Parsons KC. The Damaging Punch. British Medical Journal. Dec, 1985, 1756–57.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Smith MS, Dyson RJ, Hale T, Janaway L. Development of a boxing dynamometer and its punch force discrimination efficacy. Journal of Sports Sciences 18, 2000, 445–450.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Smith TA, Bishop PJ, Wells RP. Three dimensional analysis of linear and angular accelerations of the head experienced in boxing. IRCOBI, 1986, 271–285.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Mertz HJ, Hodgson VR, Thomas LM, Nyquist GW. An Assessment of Compressive Neck Loads Under Injury Producing Conditions. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 6(11), 1978, 95–106.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Kleinberger M, Sun E, Eppinger R, Kuppa S, Saul R. Development of Improved Injury Criteria for the Assessment of Advanced Automotive Restraint Systems. NHTSA Docket No 1998-4405-9, September, 1998.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Walilko TJ, Viano DC, Bir CA. Biomechanics of Olympic Boxer Punches to the Face. in print, British Journal of Sport Medicine, 2005.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Shee TR, Viano DC. Computing Body Segment Trajectories in the Hybrid III Dummy Using Linear Accelerometer Data. Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, 116(1), 1994, 37–43.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • David C. Viano
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.National Football LeaugueMild Traumatic Brain Injury CommitteeNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Sport Biomechanics LaboratoryWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  3. 3.ProBiomechanics LLCBloomfield HillsUSA

Personalised recommendations