When STEM and Football Collide

There has been a significant increase of awareness around concussions and head injuries in football in recent years. By extension, this awareness and subsequent increase in concussion protocols has decreased concussions since 2015, as depicted below by IQVIA: an independent, third-party associated with the NFL (National Football League) to effectively measure the impact of injuries, including concussions, in the league. 

*2020 was markedly different from other seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were no preseason games in 2020.

**The NFL structure changed in 2021 to include three preseason games and 17 regular season games. Prior to 2021, the NFL season included four preseason games and 16 regular season games.

In 2019, the STEM Sports® team was eager to develop the STEM Football curriculum. During the development and review of standards, we appreciatively realized the parallel of STEM concepts to the sport. Accordingly, Module 4.1 was born – a lesson highly regarded by our team, and the teachers and students who have applied the below concepts, objectives, NGSS, and K-12 Physical Education standards to their respective classrooms.

The Evolution of the Football Helmet
Grades: 3-5
Concept: Science: Senses and the Brain
Objective: Students will describe how damage to the brain can influence the senses. Students will describe how helmet technology can help protect players from damage to the brain.
Standards: NGSS & National K-12 Physical Education 
Students will learn about their senses and the effect a concussion can have on their senses if injured during play. They will also have the opportunity to review current helmet technology to learn of the equipment’s advancements to better understand why helmets are essential to protect the brain from concussions/head injuries

The Evolution of the Football Helmet
Grades: 6-8
Concept: Science: Body Systems
Objective: Students will explain how a helmet protects the nervous system by using historical data. Students will explain how a head injury impacts the nervous system and neuron cells. Students will evaluate historic and current helmet technology by discussing how the helmet would protect the player from head injuries.
Standards: NGSS & National K-12 Physical Education 

Comparable to the 3-5 lesson, students will learn about concussions in football yet take it a step further by reading, comprehending, and answering text-dependent questions. They will then have the opportunity to apply this knowledge by diagramming parts of the nervous system of a player wearing a helmet to answer the question: Are football governing bodies doing enough to prevent and protect players from concussions/head injuries?

The physical and cognitive/psychological effects due to concussions in football have been significant and unfortunate. With stakeholders increasing their awareness, concussion protocols and evaluation techniques/prevention methods will become the standard to measure and protect players at all levels. In the end, though, no measure is 100% effective. Yet an understanding and respect of the science under the helmet is a win-win.

Source: Injury Data Since 2015 (nfl.com)

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