The most common of these adverse consequences include the two aforementioned modes of damage. Traumatic Brain Injury, which is defined as a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts normal function to the brain. This is the main, recordable method of brain disruption (AANS). This sort of injury is classified with a set of values known as the GADD severity index, which measures the amount of acceleration of the head as a function of its exponent. This calculation yields a single value that represents the intensity of collision, acceleration, and therefore the danger of the impact. Even more disconcerting, however, is the presence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which occurs due to repeated sub-concussive impacts to the head, and can have long lasting effects. This is equivalent to “creep,” in engineering terms, of damage over time to the brain. After many instances of sub-concussive impacts, which seem harmless as the time, damage slowly builds to a critical level. Repeated sub-concussive impacts build up to major concussive levels. These concussions can be much more severe even if the sub-concussive impacts never reached the magnitude of a singular concussive impact (Spiotta, Bartsch, and Benzel 2011). This is a concern for many athletes, as it is hard to gauge how far along the path of CTE one is. CTE’s are quite difficult to study in a limited time span, it will not be a focus of the experiment, although it is still a serious consideration.
The existence of these serious injuries make it critical to reduce the amount of risk taken when participating in these sports. Specifically, our team is searching for methods of minimizing the amount of impact force imparted to the head by ball contact. Interestingly, there is little to no precedent for tests on ball specifications and their implications on impact forces in these two sports.
Dr. David Reinkensmeyer
Dr. Jim Hicks