Colder temperatures may put football players at increased risk of concussion

Contact sports put athletes at high risk for sustaining mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), commonly known as concussion. In the last decade, there has been rising concern about the implications of sports-related concussions, resulting in improved equipment standards and reporting protocols among professional sports organizations, as well as campaigns designed to educate the public about this health issue. However, little research exists on the role of environmental factors – such as temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, dew point, and altitude – on the incidence of concussion during professional football games.

Recently, a team of researchers used the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) FRONTLINE Concussion Watch to collect concussion data from 32 NFL teams from 2012-2015. They integrated this data with online weather records mined from Weather Underground. They found that, over 960 games, 411 games reported at least one concussion. 564 total concussions occurred. Weather data indicated that concussions were more likely to occur on days with colder temperatures and lower dew points.

These findings suggest that warmer temperatures may have neuroprotective effects on athletes. Additionally, colder weather may compress the playing field, resulting in harder impacts upon contact and increasing the risk of head injury. To best protect athletes from potentially debilitating injuries, there is a need for further research on the environmental risks for sports-related concussion.

Haider S, Kaye-Kauderer HP, Maniya AY, et al. Does the environment influence the frequency of concussion incidence in professional football? Cureus Journal of Medical Science. (November 2018).

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