The metric, called Risk Weighted Cumulative Exposure (RWE), can capture players' exposure to the risk of concussion over the course of a football season by measuring the frequency and magnitude of all impacts, said senior author of the study Joel Stitzel, Ph.D., chair of biomedical engineering at Wake Forest Baptist and associate head of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences.
The study is published in the current online edition of the Annals of Biomedical Engineering.
Based on data gathered throughout a season of high school football games and practices, the researchers used RWE to measure the cumulative risk of injury due to linear and rotational acceleration separately, as well as the combined probability of injury associated with both.
"This metric gives us a way to look at a large number of players and the hits they've incurred while playing football," Stitzel said. "We know that young players are constantly experiencing low-level hits that don't cause visible injury, but there hasn't been a good way to measure the associated risk of concussion."
Concussion is the most common sports-related head injury, with football players having the highest rate among high school athletes, according to the study. It is estimated that nearly 1.1 million students play high school football in the United States.
Image: Football player, via Shutterstock