There is considerable public concern about the effects of repetitive football head impacts on a player’s brain health. Many studies suggest a link between head impacts and poorer health. Safe and efficient walking and balance are critical for activities of daily living and can reflect a person’s overall health.
In this study, investigators evaluated 34 collegiate football players who wore head impact sensors and compared their walking and balance to 13 cheerleaders before and after a single season at two different colleges. Surprisingly, there was no worsening of walking or balance performance in the football players over the course of the season compared to their status before a season or compared to the cheerleaders. The helmet sensor data showed that these players, on average, were exposed to 538 impacts over the course of the competitive season. However, neither the number of impacts nor the force of the impacts had much influence on walking or balance performance measures in the athletes.
The conclusion of this study is that repetitive football head impacts did not affect walking or balance performance over a single season. The possible effects of these impacts over multiple seasons or in later life remain unknown.
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