Skip to main content

Study investigates traumatic brain injuries in football

29 September 2022

A research collaboration between the School of Engineering and Mississippi State University aims to increase understanding of traumatic brain injuries in football.

The study, which began in 2020, researched the effects of head impact on football players.

Dr Mike Jones, Reader in Clinical, Trauma and Orthopaedic Engineering at Cardiff University and member of the FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence and International Brain Mechanics and Trauma Laboratory at the University of Oxford, conducted the research at the Mississippi State University together with Dr Raj Prabhu, former Associate Professor and now Project Scientist at NASA, Dr Hamed Bakhtiarydavijani, Research Engineer, and Dr Youssef Hammi, Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The results showed a dramatic difference between the head and brain movement of players who were aware of a head-to-soccer ball collision and those who were unaware.

When a ball is coming towards a player, they will stiffen their neck in anticipation of the collision. When people are unaware of the collision, they cannot brace their necks, which leads to a much higher risk of injury. When an individual is hit unaware by a football, because their neck muscles are relaxed, they experience significantly larger and faster head movement. These sudden head movements cause the brain tissue to stretch, increasing the risk of brain injury. Aware players, however, experience smaller head movements and are less likely to be injured. 

Guidelines for heading in football have already been set in the United Kingdom for under 12 age groups. Younger players, for example, are not allowed to hit the ball with their head as is permitted by players in professional matches because of the risks of injury. 

Football is gaining popularity in the United States, especially in schools. This research could be used to help set safety guidelines for the sport as early as possible to mitigate any damages that might be caused down the line.

This research project is the second collaboration between Dr Mike Jones and Mississippi State University. A 2017 study was conducted to advance the understanding of infant head trauma, one of the leading causes of death in young children. 

We look forward to continuing the collaboration between our School of Engineering and Mississippi State University.

Share this story