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Playing at higher altitudes could result in fewer concussions

Brain Getty Images

Concussions are an inevitable part of football, and other sports and activities.  But now that sensitivity to concussions has increased, possible trends are emerging.

Via the Los Angeles Times, here’s an intriguing one.  At higher altitudes, concussions could be less prevalent.

A new study published by the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy finds that fewer concussions occurred during NFL games played in 2012 and 2013 at altitudes more than 644 feet above sea level, with the rate being 49.4 of every 10,000 players.  Below 644 feet, the rate was 70 of 10,000.

Nine teams play homes games at an altitude above 644 feet:  the Colts, Steelers, Panthers, Bills, Chiefs, Vikings, Falcons, Cardinals, and Broncos.

The phenomenon could be attributed to the reduction in “brain slosh” at higher altitude, where pressure inside the skull increases.  With higher pressure possibly comes a reduced possibility that the brain will bang against bone in response to sudden movements that come from quick stops and big hits.

The sample size remains relatively small, and it doesn’t account for concussions that were suffered but concealed by players.

Still, this could be one of many potential discoveries as doctors and scientists try to learn more about the causes and effects of concussions.

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27 Responses to “Playing at higher altitudes could result in fewer concussions”
  1. somethingsmellsrotten says: Feb 7, 2014 10:35 AM

    Except for Welker that is…

  2. pillowporkers says: Feb 7, 2014 10:37 AM

    It’s not perfect but I think it’d be a fair assumption that the altitude doesn’t effect the % of concussions that are concealed. I don’t think concealed concussions would really affect the outcome. Someone who plays in Denver is not more likely to conceal a concussion than someone in New Orleans.

  3. thestrategyexpert says: Feb 7, 2014 10:42 AM

    Sounds like somebody should force the NFL into being held accountable to produce more reliable data for the sample, such as by cutting out the problems with players concealing injuries and getting back into the game, or to have some kind of qualified process that protects the players from exorbitant levels of dangerous risks, health or otherwise.

    Some day there will be a law which says the way things happened last year is illegal. We need that NOW. As well as other new laws to hit the league for other stuff that they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with. If this was set up properly in the past, then this data would have been much better.

  4. ialwayswantedtobeabanker says: Feb 7, 2014 10:44 AM

    It could also result in less games played by Ryan Clark.

  5. fthrvic says: Feb 7, 2014 10:48 AM

    Fun Fact….AZ is the 2nd highest team in elevation the NFL.

  6. weepingjebus says: Feb 7, 2014 10:51 AM

    Study was skewed by fact that the Broncos don’t tackle.

  7. bullcharger says: Feb 7, 2014 10:51 AM

    There is absolutely no way to completely eliminate concussions from football. It is a contact sport and those that play are knowingly risking injury.

    Many professional and non professional sports are dangerous and people choose to participate every day.

    Open wheel racing, Luge, Boxing, UFC, Downhill ski racing. People have died or been seriously injured in all those sports, yet the rules don’t significantly change and people still want to do it.

    The NFL is safe compartively.

    Players are knowledgable now… they’ve addressed the hits to the head to some degree and they have a good concussion protocol. Now leave it alone.

  8. cajunaise says: Feb 7, 2014 10:52 AM

    For all of those who’ve complained football has been placed on a pedestal…there might be a medical benefit to that.

  9. GenXJay says: Feb 7, 2014 10:55 AM

    This is a possibility. cheesebay fans would disagree.
    A sure fire scientific fact of high altitude effect on players asthmatic reaction will conflict this story’s positive spin. thus, giving a false hope (i.e. fat eddie)

  10. thingamajig says: Feb 7, 2014 10:59 AM

    Instead of having a team in London maybe they should looking at a team on the moon.

  11. floratiotime says: Feb 7, 2014 11:03 AM

    Weird. The Broncos sure played like they all had concussions.

  12. bobzilla1001 says: Feb 7, 2014 11:03 AM

    Ryan Clark has played 8 seasons in Pittsburgh. What’s your point?

  13. threefeetaway says: Feb 7, 2014 11:09 AM

    Wes Welker’s helmet says otherwise.

  14. nflcrimerankingscom says: Feb 7, 2014 11:18 AM

    This study is essentially just dependent on Denver. It’s B.S. and statistical poo to rely on one football team to try to parse out differences in concussions from the rest. It’s just noise.

  15. dahmergeinteam says: Feb 7, 2014 11:46 AM

    What’s a little knock on the head between friends? I do it all the time here in Wisco and get great results.

  16. justintuckrule says: Feb 7, 2014 11:53 AM

    I hear the hamster wheel in Goodell’s pea brain churning from here. In order for your city to receive the fool’s gold known as a Super Bowl, you will need to hire 400,000 workers to hold your current stadium off the ground while another 400,000 workers build a 645 foot pedestal under it.

  17. salmen76 says: Feb 7, 2014 11:57 AM

    I got it. The NFL can have an air valve installed at the base of all players skulls. Just before practice or game time the equipment guy just connects and air hose from a pressurized canister to the air valve and pump each skull with a little air pressure. Then go out on the field and hit and be hit as hard as you want and not suffer a concussion. Too cool. Concussion issue solved. Geaux Saints!

  18. nofrets66 says: Feb 7, 2014 11:59 AM

    “The phenomenon could be attributed to the reduction in ‘brain slosh’ at higher altitude, where pressure inside the skull increases.”

    So instead of pumping up helmets, they should directly pump up the players’ skulls.

  19. The Great Ted Thompson the Genius says: Feb 7, 2014 11:59 AM

    Based on my calculations with the sample sizes they must have, the difference between .0007 and .00049 is not statistically significant. It certainly isn’t practically significant. What are we supposed to do with these results? Start building stadiums on hills?

  20. corkspop says: Feb 7, 2014 12:05 PM

    This is dumb. There just isn’t that much difference at the altitudes being referenced. Nothing more than coincidence. Same as the misinformed who think punts and FG’s go 50% farther in Denver. Slightly? Yes. Dramatic? No.

  21. willyalistentothis says: Feb 7, 2014 12:46 PM

    This is perfect for guys like Cromartie who advocate getting high and playing.

  22. justintuckrule says: Feb 7, 2014 1:21 PM

    Shouldn’t this study prove that the Saints have the highest concussion % given that they play below sea level?

  23. thegreatgabbert says: Feb 7, 2014 1:54 PM

    Playing with lower “attitude” would result in fewer concussions as well.

  24. marylandchief says: Feb 8, 2014 5:45 AM

    Does altitude account for the “brain slosh” Peyton manning experiences in the playoffs?

  25. warhawk137 says: Feb 8, 2014 6:32 PM

    Well, it’s interesting, but I’m not sure if there’s a practical application for this information.

  26. wfederal says: Feb 10, 2014 10:08 AM

    I’m born and raised in Charlotte, NC and by the time I went to College i racked up 13 concussions playing football and lacrosse… I don’t buy this study. It seems circumstantial to me. But what do I know? My brain is mush

  27. jgedgar70 says: Feb 11, 2014 9:07 AM

    “Nine teams play homes games at an altitude above 644 feet: the Colts, Steelers, Panthers, Bills, Chiefs, Vikings, Falcons, Cardinals, and Broncos.”

    Oh, so THAT’S why Graham Gano can kick the ball so far.

    Who knew the Panthers were so high in the sky…

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