NFL players are at greater risk for concussions and ankle injuries during colder games, findings of a new study revealed.
For the research published in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine on March 31, researchers looked at five of the most common injuries that players sustained in 480 games from the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 National Football League seasons.
They found that the players had double the risk of suffering from concussion and 1.5 times of sustaining ankle injuries during games set on days when the temperature was 50 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, compared with when the temperature was 70 degrees.
"This study evaluated extrinsic risk factors for injury in the NFL," the researchers wrote in their study. "A hazardous association was identified for risk of concussion and ankle injury with colder game-day temperature."
Researchers do not have a clear idea on how colder temperatures contribute to spike in football injuries but they have a few ideas.
The equipment and materials used in the game, for instance, may have lower elasticity at colder temperatures, which may increase the force of impact. This means that if a football hits a player's helmet, the impact could be more forceful compared when it occurs in warm weather.
The players may also tend to report injuries during colder games because they were likely to be in contact with athletic staff when it is colder. Athletic staff, for instance provide players with coat, hot drinks, hand warmers and other warming equipment on the sidelines when the weather is cold, providing players with opportunity to report their injuries.
It is also possible that the players mistake concussion symptoms for heat-related illness when they sustain injuries during warmer games.
As for ankle injuries, study researcher David Lawrence, from St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, said that some of the reflexes of the body may not work as well in colder temperatures and this could result in increased risk for injury during colder games.
The researchers said that further studies are still needed to substantiate the observed link and its potential implications on preventing injury among football players.
"It's important that we better understand these factors and prevent as many injuries as possible," Lawrence said. "Given this is one of the first studies to look at these variables, we can only speculate at this time on the underlying causes for the associations we observed with specific injuries on game-days."