Researchers looking into concussions among college football players came away with surprisingly strong evidence to back up a key takeaway: Most concussions occur during practice, not games, reports Sports Illustrated. Related to that, a disproportionate number of concussions occur during preseason training—roughly half, even though that span accounts for only about 20% of a season. In their peer-reviewed study at JAMA Neurology, researchers found that 72% of concussions over a five-year period happened during practices. Lead researcher Michael McCrea of the Medical College of Wisconsin tells MedPage Today that the high percentage can be explained by long practices that emphasize full-contact drills such as blocking and tackling. In fact, researchers expected to see a discrepancy between training and games—just not such a big one.
“Most people, scientists or not, are aware that there’s more full-contact activity in the preseason than in the regular season, so I’m not sure the trend of that finding is a surprise,” McCrea tells the New York Times. “But maybe the magnitude of it.” The big question is whether the NCAA will translate the findings into new rules, and the Times suggests nobody should hold their breath given the organization's bureaucracy. That would be a mistake, argue two brain researchers in an accompanying editorial at JAMA. They called the results "shocking" and said college players are in a "regulatory no-man's land," without the same protections given to high school students and NFL players. The study looked at 658 players on six teams from 2015 to 2019, using sensors to monitor helmet impacts. In all, they logged 68 concussions. (Even hits that don't cause concussions can take a toll on the brain.)