QHow did NOCSAE first get involved with research?
NOCSAE Executive Director, Mike Oliver: NOCSAE’s involvement with research actually started with the first NOCSAE meeting more than 50 years ago, when a group of sports industry experts gathered to explore how to address and help prevent fatalities in football. At that time, little was known about the biomechanics of head injuries and how to measure helmet impacts, and the group knew they had to find a way to measure this in order to protect athletes. NOCSAE began working with the Gurdjian-Lissner Biomechanics Laboratory in the Department of Neurology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine to research and learn more about football related head injuries.
QWhat is the role of research in developing or updating performance standards?
Oliver: NOCSAE-funded research, along with existing medical and scientific knowledge, is fundamental to developing and improving NOCSAE standards. One recent example is the research we’ve funded to study head impact exposure in youth football which is providing a sound scientific basis to develop a youth football helmet performance standard. The findings from this research will shape the content of this standard to most effectively protect youth against head injuries that are specific to youth football.
QHow has NOCSAE’s research program helped to lead the industry’s understanding of sports injuries?
Oliver: Improving athlete safety has always been the main priority for NOCSAE. A formal research grant program was established in 1994 when NOCSAE funded one of the first concussion-specific grants. At that time, there had been almost no published research on sports related concussions. NOCSAE was a leader in this research area, and one of just a few organizations focused on advancing the understanding of concussions in football and other sports. One of NOCSAE’s early grant recipients was Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, who received an initial grant in 1996 to study sports concussion diagnosis and assessment. In the years that followed, Dr. Guskiewicz completed additional NOCSAE funded research for which he was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship or “Genius Grant.”
NOCSAE has also been a leader in research related to sudden cardiac death, or “commotio cordis” in sports. NOCSAE’s efforts to study commotio cordis led to a scientific breakthrough in the understanding of the injury which informed the development of the ND200 Performance Standard for Commotio Cordis. NOCSAE funded more than $2 million in research and engineering investigation to discover the precise cause of commotio cordis and then determine how to protect against it. This research also led to the creation of testing equipment, and there are now multiple products on the market that meet the standard.
Since 1995, NOCSAE has worked with universities and accredited laboratories to fund a range of concussion-specific independent research studies. To date, NOCSAE has invested over $13 million in research efforts addressing concussions, commotio cordis and other sports injuries issues.
QHow does NOCSAE fund research grants?
Oliver: In 1994, NOCSAE established a license fee structure to protect the integrity of our trademarked logos and to provide a reliable and predictable source of revenue. NOCSAE commits a significant portion of its annual budget to fund research.
QHow does NOCSAE support research today?
Oliver: NOCSAE’s mission is to enhance athletic safety through scientific research and the creation of performance standards for athletic equipment. As part of that mission, advancing research is always a key priority for our organization.
- In 2021, NOCSAE launched a new Request for Proposal (RFP) process designed to help target critical areas of research needed to help understand specific injuries and advance the development of standards. We announced our first RFP in February 2021 to study shoulder pads and determine if they are a significant mechanism of injury to the shoulder/chest/neck or head. In July 2021, the board approved funding for a proposal to track shoulder pad-related injuries in high school football and provide additional biomechanical data beyond the RFP criteria.Through NOCSAE’s education campaigns, social media channels and website, interested parties can learn about current RFPs and upcoming deadlines for proposals.
- At NOCSAE’s board meeting in January 2021, NOCSAE made the decision to continue the financial support of a study researching the effect of helmet use on injury risk and head impact rates in girl’s lacrosse. This study should be completed in the fall of 2021.
- Another pilot study initiated in 2019 and currently underway with NOCSAE’s financial support is “Changes in Brain Physiology Associated With Youth Tackle and Flag Football.” The final report on this study was presented at the NOCSAE board meeting in July 2021.
- NOCSAE also annually funds the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research (NCCSIR) at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. NCCSIR tracks cases through a systematic data reporting system that allows for longitudinal investigation of athletes suffering from catastrophic injuries and illnesses. The goal of the Center is to improve the prevention, evaluation, management and rehabilitation of catastrophic sports-related injuries.
QAre NOCSAE’s research study reports and findings available to the public?
Oliver: The impact of research extends beyond our standards. We require that NOCSAE-funded researchers submit their work for publication in peer-reviewed journals so it can be available to others. More recently, we have required that at least the primary publication that arises from a funded research grant be made available as an open access article to anyone who wants to read it. This means there is no charge to download a copy of the study’s primary publication. In keeping with our mission, we believe this helps to enhance the understanding of sports injuries across consumer, parents and the academic, medical and sports industry communities.
Anyone interested in viewing past research grant projects may do so here.