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The OPDL Spotlight Series - Concussion Testing

By OSA News, 05/18/16, 5:45PM EDT


While there are numerous benefits for participation in sport, there is also the risk of head injury. More than 265 million people play soccer worldwide, and females and youth players have an elevated risk of head injury. While most concussion research has focused on American Football, soccer has been understudied. The lack of information relating specific impact exposures to head injuries has made it challenging to develop strategies to reduce concussions in sport.

This is why a team of researchers from the Faculty of Health Sciences at Western University came to the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) to evaluate brain function following potential concussions and repetitive head-impacts. This study will be vital to future research of concussion in the sport of soccer.

The Ontario Soccer Association asked Dr. Jim Dickey and Alexandra Harris, the leaders of the study titled “Biomechanical head impact exposure in youth soccer, and the relationship to cognitive and brain function,” to explain the research in this week's OPDL Spotlight. 

What is the purpose of the study?

The purpose of this study is to delineate the relationship between head impacts and brain health in youth soccer. OPDL players will wear headbands that contain micro-sensors from GForceTracker that will detect and measure head impacts that occur during training and matches. In addition, Evoke Neuroscience’s eVox, which measures brain and cardiac functioning, will be used to determine player baseline neurological functioning that will be monitored during and after the soccer season.

Why was OPDL chosen to be a part of this study?

Although most of our understanding of sport-related concussions comes from American Football, concussions are a concern in soccer. Soccer is also the second leading cause of head injury among female athletes. The OPDL recruits the top level soccer players in the province, and is designed for long-term player development, making them the ideal subjects of the study. As these players embark on their soccer career we believe managing the risk of head injury for these athletes is imperative. The information that we learn in this study will be relevant to other soccer leagues as well.

Which License Holder was chosen to participate?

Upon consideration of key aspects involved in the study, including collaboration from Technical Staff along with the logistics required, the Burlington Youth Soccer Club (BYSC) was selected to participate in the study. Players from each of the six BYSC OPDL teams will be wearing headbands, approved by the OSA Match Official Department, instrumented with micro-sensors for all matches this season.

However, all license holders are invited to participate in a second arm of the study. If players sustain a concussion during season, they will be recruited to evaluate recovery of brain function following a concussion. Using the Evoke Neuroscience eVox system this study will evaluate recovery of brain function following a concussion sustained during training or matches.

What are some of the goals of the study?

The main goal of this project is to maintain player safety within soccer and reduce the incidence of acute head injuries. Results from this OPDL study could provide a proactive approach to head injury in soccer, and identify players at risk for concussive injury.

Dr. Jim Dickey

Jim has been engaging in field studies of head impact exposure in football for the past three years, and has expanded that approach to encompass tests of brain function over the past year. His expertise in biomechanics, impact exposure, lab and field testing, numerical methods and modeling will be strong assets for completing this project. He has a strong track record of team-based research grants, as well as training HQP and supervising research staff will also contribute to the success of this proposed project.

Alexandra Harriss

Alexandra Harriss is a doctoral candidate under the co-supervision of Dr. Jim Dickey and Dr. Dave Walton.

She worked as a Concussion Therapist/Kinesiologist before engaging in her doctoral studies, and has specific experience in concussion awareness, standards, guidelines and rehabilitation.


The study has two industrial partners: 1) Evoke Neuroscience providing equipment and analysis for brain function, and 2) GForceTracker providing wireless sensors for measuring impacts in soccer, such as heading the ball. The study is supported by Concussion Legacy Foundation Canada and grant funding from the Canadian Institute of Health Research is pending.