Study: Concussions are more complex than originally thought.
Stanford researchers conducted a study on football players, boxers, and MMA fighters in 2015 to determine the connection between concussions and impacts. In the study, football players, local boxers, and mixed martial arts fighters were fitted with special mouth guards that had the ability to record how their heads moved after an impact.
The mouth guards recorded over 500 hits. Two of these hits resulted in concussions and are believed to be the first ever to be recorded. The two concussion impacts inflicted very different magnitude and directional forces on the head, but they both had the same stress on a particular part of the brain in common.
Previous research measured translational forces (up/down, left/right, front/back) that led to concussions. Now, scientists believe that rotational accelerations (roll, pitch, yaw) play a prominent role in that injury. This was proven in the data collected from the 2015 study.
Researchers found that the key difference in whether or not an athlete would develop a concussion was how and where the brain shook during impact. After an average hit, the brain shakes back and forth around 30 times per second with the majority of the brain moving in unison. In cases with concussions, an area of the brain moves out of unison with the rest of the brain. This is the corpus callosum (the part of the brain that connects the left and right halves). When that part moves quicker than surrounding areas, there is significant stress that is put on the brain.
The Stanford group hopes to develop helmets in the future that can minimize rotational effects during a hit. Real-time monitoring of head movements can limit the frequency and severity of injuries in sports. The idea is to determine the minimum force needed to cause injury and fit players with special helmets that can record the impact a hit has on their head. If the minimum force is reached, this would allow coaches to pull their player before another hit occurred that often times lengthens the time it takes to recover.