The National Football League (NFL) announced new partnerships with four research universities to expand its collection of data regarding on-field head impacts to inform injury reduction efforts at the professional and collegiate levels. Football players at The University of Alabama, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The University of Washington, and University of Wisconsin will have the opportunity to opt-in to the NFL’s novel program, which collects data from a sensor built into a custom-fit mouthguard.
The high-tech mouthguard sensors, which are currently used by players at 10 NFL clubs, are designed to collect kinematic data, including impact speed, direction, force, location, and severity. Insights gleaned from the data collected will help inform the NFL’s approach to injury reduction and decrease head impacts overall. The NFL’s application of data through better prediction of injury, rules changes, and the continued advancement of better-performing equipment, like position-specific helmets, has helped improve the safety of the game.
Players at all four universities are using the mouthguard sensors this season. Data collected is anonymized and analyzed by the NFL-NFLPA’s independent engineering experts at BioCore, led by Jeff Crandall, PhD, and in collaboration with NFLPA-affiliated consultants such as Kristy Arbogast, PhD, the director of engineering for the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The program is overseen by NFL’s Jennifer Langton, senior vice president of health and safety innovation. Each university will be provided with a statistical analysis specific to their team to help inform their own efforts to advance player health and safety.
“Sophisticated and specific data collection is central to our work to find better ways to research, diagnose, understand and better prevent injuries,” says Allen Sills, MD, FACS, NFL chief medical officer. “We are excited to establish this partnership with not only nationally recognized collegiate football programs who have a direct pipeline to the NFL, but also with esteemed research universities to expand the universe of inputs from which we can analyze, draw conclusions, and develop recommendations for how to make the game safer.”