As football play gets more serious, so too do the head hits. Impact-sensing patches tucked behind the ears of 16 University of Virginia football players counted the head knocks that happened during four types of play: helmet-only practices, half-pad (or shell) practices with helmets and shoulder pads, full-pad practices and games. The number of hits increased as play became more intense, scientists report online August 4 in the Journal of Neurosurgery.
The severity of hits was reduced in helmet-only practices compared with the other categories, where it held steady. Head hits, even those not severe enough to cause concussions, can cause brain trouble.