Leveraging football accelerometer data to quantify associations between repetitive head impacts and chronic traumatic encephalopathy in males

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative tauopathy associated with repetitive head impacts (RHI), but the components of RHI exposure underlying this relationship are unclear. We create a position exposure matrix (PEM), composed of American football helmet sensor data, summarized from literature review by player position and level of play. Using this PEM, we estimate measures of lifetime RHI exposure for a separate cohort of 631 football playing brain donors. Separate models examine the relationship between CTE pathology and players’ concussion count, athletic positions, years of football, and PEM-derived measures, including estimated cumulative head impacts, linear accelerations, and rotational accelerations. Only duration of play and PEM-derived measures are significantly associated with CTE pathology. Models incorporating cumulative linear or rotational acceleration have better model fit and are better predictors of CTE pathology than duration of play or cumulative head impacts alone. These findings implicate cumulative head impact intensity in CTE pathogenesis.