According to a study conducted by a team of researchers and engineers at Purdue University, up to 22% of football injuries are concussions that can result from players using their heads to direct the ball during a game. In order to reduce the risk of injury, the researchers recommend inflating the balls to a lower pressure and swapping them out once they get wet.
During the study, the team of researchers and engineers found that inflating balls to pressures on the lower end of ranges enforced by football governing bodies such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association [NCAA] and FIFA could reduce forces associated with potential head injury by around 20%.
They also discovered that when the ball gets too wet, it can quickly surpass the NCAA weight limit for gameplay and result in a nasty impact.
Football governing bodies already regulate ball pressure, size, mass and water absorption at the start of a game. However, Eric Nauman, a Purdue professor of mechanical engineering and basic medical sciences and his team are the first to conduct a study evaluating the effects of each of these ball parameters on producing an impact associated with potential neurophysiological changes.
“If the ball has too high of a pressure, gets too waterlogged, or both, it actually turns into a weapon. Heading that ball is like heading a brick,” said Nauman.
The study also evaluated ball velocity, finding that this variable actually contributes the most to how hard a ball hits, but ball pressure and water absorption would be more realistic to control.
Previous studies show a professional football player heads the ball about 12 times over the course of a single game and 800 times in games over an entire season.
According to Francis Shen, a professor of law at the University of Minnesota, “The study really sheds light on the issue of how the weight and impact of the ball can change under different conditions. Sports governing bodies and manufacturers can use this research to further reduce the risk of lasting brain functional or structural injury as a result of head impacts accrued through football gameplay,”
Take a look at the findings of the study below: