The NFL announced partnerships with four research universities to expand its collection of data regarding on-field head impacts at the professional and collegiate levels. Football players at Alabama, North Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin will have the opportunity to opt-in to the NFL's novel program, which collects data from a sensor built into a custom-fit mouthguard.
The high-tech mouthguard sensors, which are currently used by players at 10 NFL clubs, are designed to collect kinematic data, including impact speed, direction, force, location, and severity. Insights pulled from the data will help inform the NFL's approach to injury reduction and decrease head impacts overall.
Players at all four universities are using the mouthguard sensors this season. Data collected is analyzed by the NFL-NFLPA's independent engineering experts at BioCore, and in collaboration with NFLPA-affiliated consultants. Each university will be provided with a statistical analysis specific to their team to help shape their own efforts to advance player health and safety.
"Sophisticated and specific data collection is central to our work to find better ways to research, diagnose, understand and better prevent injuries," said Dr. Allen Sills, NFL chief medical officer. "We are excited to establish this partnership with not only nationally recognized collegiate football programs who have a direct pipeline to the NFL, but also with esteemed research universities to expand the universe of inputs from which we can analyze, draw conclusions, and develop recommendations for how to protect the players."
The mouthguard sensor program launched in 2019 as part of the NFL's $60 million commitment under the Engineering Roadmap to promote health and safety initiatives. The partnership with these four universities is an expansion of the NFL's broader approach to driving innovation in the sport.
"Reducing the risk of sport-related concussions is a priority for athletes, coaches, and health care providers," said Daniel Cobian, professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. "The findings of this study will help us better understand the frequency and severity of head impacts sustained by University of Wisconsin football players during practices and games, and the circumstances such as equipment, training, or individual actions surrounding these impacts."
The NFL is committed to upholding the highest ethical standards for scientific research studies. Each participating university's independent review boards (IRB) has reviewed and approved the terms of this study.