Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine are collaborating with football teams at three Bay Area high schools to understand how hits to the head cause concussions in young players.
In a study launched last month, a research team led by concussion experts David Camarillo, PhD, and Gerald Grant, MD, is outfitting the players with mouthguards that measure the motion of the head during impacts sustained in practices and games. About 100 football players from Menlo School and Sacred Heart Preparatory, which are in Atherton, and Archbishop Mitty High School, in San Jose, are participating in the first year of the study.
Camarillo’s team has previously studied concussion in Stanford athletes and NFL players, but never in younger players.
“This will be the first study in kids where we’ll be measuring rotation and full motion of the head during impacts,” said Camarillo, assistant professor of bioengineering and the co-principal investigator for the study. “It’s important to expand our research to the high school level and younger because that’s where there are the most athletes.”
While the NFL and college football comprise several thousand players, high school and children’s football programs account for around 4 million players nationwide, he said.
“Our goal is to focus first on high schools in the Bay Area and to deepen our level of understanding about how concussions may occur in one player but not another,” said Grant, professor of neurosurgery and the principal investigator for the study. “We’re going to gather prospective data on the players in the preseason, as well as during the season and postseason.” Grant is also a pediatric neurosurgeon at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, where he treats young athletes with head injuries.
The researchers are collecting preseason neurocognitive data that they will use as a baseline for comparison with neurocognitive data collected after any suspected injuries. During practices and games, players will wear special mouthguards equipped with sensors that measure motion in three directions — up/down, left/right and front/back — as well as three types of rotational acceleration: roll, pitch and yaw.