Research Measures Power Of Football Hits

Purdue Researchers Place Sensors In Players' Helmets

As high school football rolls through the playoffs, some Purdue University research related to football hits is garnering increased attention.

Researchers are following a group of players from Lafayette Jefferson High School, placing sensors in their helmets and giving them MRIs, 6News' Dan Spehler reported. The project was featured in this week's issue of "Sports Illustrated."

The sensors record all the hits and log them on a computer for later analysis. Researchers said they have found so far that all hits can have consequences, some cumulative.

"The main issue is these players are experiencing this damage, but they're not stopping playing," said Tom Talavage, an associate professor at Purdue. "They continue to go out there play after play after play, where the player who gets a concussion, he sits out for a week."

Many players are keenly aware of the risks, but others don't want to think about it.

"Sometimes, the little hits amount to large brain damage that can lead to dementia and things like that," said Joel Ripke, an offensive lineman. "I try not to think about that while I'm playing."

"I think it's kind of cool. I like to see how hard I can hit," said Brandon Stumph, a defensive lineman.

Parents said the details they have seen so far are eye opening.

"There's a lot of concern as a parent," said Jeff Stumph, Brandon's father. "I didn't realize how much contact on the head there really is."

Coaches and researchers agree that devising equipment that offers players better protection should be a priority.

"I'm hoping it makes for a safer football helmet, some safer equipment," said Andy Kennedy, Lafayette Jefferson head coach. "As long as you're playing the support, you're going to have that gladiator's mentality."

Researchers said ordinary hits can add up to the equivalent of a concussion or worse, but that some of the brain impairment can heal on its own.