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The University of Hawai’i at Mānoa College of Education (COE), in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell), is set to launch a new three-year program to reduce head impact exposure in Hawai‘i high school football players and to enhance community awareness and environment for head safety. Funded by the GOG Foundation, the HuTT®808 program will work in collaboration with the COE Hawai‘i Concussion Awareness Program (HCAMP).

Based upon research findings, high school football participants are reported to sustain an average of 600, and as many as 2,000, head impacts in a single season. Impacts to the top and front of the helmet generate the greatest forces and pose the highest risk for acute brain and spinal cord injury. There are also potential links between head impact exposure and cognitive impairment, early-onset Alzheimer’s, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

“Tackling and blocking behaviors using the head can be attributed, in part, to the fact that traditional helmets give players a false sense of safety,” explained Dr. Erik Swartz, UMass Lowell Professor and Principal Investigator (PI) of HuTT®808. “Frequent, supervised tackling and blocking training without a helmet teaches a player to avoid initiating contact with the head,”

While at the University of New Hampshire, Swartz developed the concept of a helmetless tackling and blocking training intervention (HuTT®) to decrease the risk of acute head and neck injury while minimizing potential adverse effects on cognitive development and health in children, a particularly vulnerable population.

The program will begin working with football teams from two to three high schools on O‘ahu. Each participating athlete will be fitted with a new Riddell helmet that will include in-helmet head impact sensors, which will be worn in all practices and games to record the location and magnitude of all impacts sustained on the field. Players will then participate in HuTT® training sessions starting the following season.

Dr. Nathan M. Murata, COE Dean and HuTT®808 Co-PI, said, “Once the outcomes of our program have shown a reduction in head impact exposure and concussions as well as improved head safety behaviors with our inaugural groups, the program will continue to work towards sustained implementation and wider acceptance in grade levels and schools across Hawai‘i.”

About the GOG Foundation
Set up by its founder, Attorney Gary O. Galiher, the GOG Foundation supports projects designed to improve Hawai‘i’s social, economic, and cultural well-being. One of the Foundation’s specific purposes is to bring awareness about the devastating effects of head injuries sustained in contact sports and how these could be prevented. Before Galiher’s untimely death in 2016, he had an outstanding legal career in Hawai‘i as a committed and passionate advocate of vulnerable clients. His Foundation sponsored an annual Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) conference in Honolulu where leaders from across the country in the fields of neurology and sports medicine presented the latest information on TBI and discussed strategies for making sports safer. The HuTT®808 project is the result of conversations began during Galiher’s last conference.

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