Association between Muscle Damage and Head Impacts in High School American Football.


Subconcussive head impacts (SHI), defined as impacts to the cranium that do not result in concussion symptoms, are gaining traction as a major public health concern. The contribution of physiological factors such as physical exertion and muscle damage to SHI-dependent changes in neurological measures remains unknown. A prospective longitudinal study examined the association between physiological factors and SHI kinematics in 15 high school American football players over one season. Players wore a sensor-installed mouthguard for all practices and games, recording frequency and magnitude of all head impacts. Serum samples were collected at 12 time points (pre-season, pre- and post-game for five in-season games, and post-season) and were assessed for an isoenzyme of creatine kinase (CK-MM) primarily found in skeletal muscle. Physical exertion was estimated in the form of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) from heart rate data captured during the five games. Mixed-effect regression models indicated that head impact kinematics were significantly and positively associated with change in CK-MM but not EPOC. There was a significant and positive association between CK-MM and EPOC. These data suggest that when examining SHI, effects of skeletal muscle damage should be considered when using outcome measures that may have an interaction with muscle damage.

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