The NFL announced an expansion of its partnership with top research universities to collect data from on-field head impacts – through novel mouthguard sensors – to augment injury reduction efforts at the professional and collegiate level, including through rules changes and the development of higher-performing equipment. Joining the program this year are universities Florida, Georgia, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt.
The addition of these four schools expands upon the four included in the program in 2021 – Alabama, North Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin. Football players at all eight universities may voluntarily opt in to the program.
Mouthguards equipped with sensors will provide a substantial amount of information about what the head experiences during an impact. This information will improve efforts to understand and reduce concussions in football. Doubling the number of participating universities will lead to a substantial increase in the amount of data collected for even more analysis.
The data from the mouthguard sensors will supplement identical data collection underway at four NFL clubs. From this data, NFL engineers will continue to analyze the frequency and severity of impacts in games and practices. In turn, this will help reinforce the league's approach to injury reduction, including rules changes, safety equipment, training techniques, and player behavior.
The custom fit of the mouthguards that house the sensors is made possible in part by NFL partner Align Technology. Dental professionals used iTero™ intraoral scanners to scan participants' teeth to aid in the creation of a personalized mouthguard. Align worked with all eight universities to facilitate scans for more than 250 participating players.
Each participating NCAA program will receive a statistical analysis of player impacts specific to their team, which will help the program refine its own efforts to advance player health and safety.
"We are excited about the opportunity to partner with the NFL to assist them in collecting more data to better understand on-field head impacts," said Dr. James Clugston, University of Florida team physician. "The research will continue to help make the game of football safer and will guide us to develop best practices for equipment design, rules of competition and practice drills."
Data collected across the mouthguard program will continue to be anonymized and analyzed by the NFL-NFLPA's independent engineering experts at Biocore and the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
"I'm thrilled to welcome the four new universities into this program, all of which – like the four founding universities – share our commitment to research in service of building a safer, better game," said Jennifer Langton, senior vice president of Health and Safety Innovation, NFL. "By collecting a larger amount of mouthguard data, we can further our efforts to reduce concussions while also accelerating our broader goal to reduce all head impacts at all levels of the sport."
The mouthguard sensor program launched in 2019 as part of the NFL's $60 million commitment to promote health and safety initiatives. The NFL remains committed to upholding the highest ethical standards for scientific research studies and, as a result, each of the participating university's Independent Review Boards (IRB) has reviewed and approved the terms of this study.