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Heading in football. Part 2: Biomechanics of ball heading and head response
  1. N Shewchenko1,
  2. C Withnall1,
  3. M Keown1,
  4. R Gittens1,
  5. J Dvorak2
  1. 1Biokinetics and Associates Ltd., Ontario, Canada
  2. 2FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre, Zurich, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to:
 N Shewchenko
 Biokinetics and Associates Ltd, Ontario, Canada;


Objectives: Controversy surrounding the long term effects of repeated impacts from heading has raised awareness among the public and the medical community. However, there is little information about the human response to the impacts and what measures can be taken to alter their effect. The objective of the current study was to gain a better understanding of heading biomechanics through the implementation of a numerical model and subsequent investigation of parameters related to heading technique and ball characteristics.

Methods: A controlled laboratory study was carried out with seven active football players, aged 20–23 years who underwent medical screening and were instrumented with accelerometers mounted in bite plates and electromyographic electrodes on the major neck muscle groups. Balls were delivered at two speeds (6 m/s and 8 m/s) as the subjects demonstrated several specific heading manoeuvres. Photographic targets were tracked via high speed video to measure heading kinematics. One subject demonstrating reasonably averaged flexion–extension muscle activity phased with head acceleration data and upper torso kinematics was used to validate a biofidelic 50th percentile human numerical model with detailed representation of the head and neck.

Results: Heading kinematics and subject responses were used with a detailed numerical model to simulate impact biomechanics for a baseline heading scenario. Changes to heading techniques and ball characteristics which mitigated head impact response were identified.

Conclusion: A numerical model combined with biomechanical measurement techniques is an important tool for parametric investigation of strategies to reduce head impact severity via changes in heading technique or the physical properties of the ball.

  • soccer/football injuries
  • concussions
  • biomechanics
  • heading
  • simulation

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  • Competing interests: none declared