Sports-related concussions continues to be a hot button issue , with the release of Concussion helping to fuel the national dialogue. Of all sportsmen, football players are most at risk of developing a concussion, with a 75 percent chance of developing a traumatic brain injury in this contact sport. This risk is even higher when they play in cold weather, according to new research published in the journal Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine .

Suffering a concussion is terrible on its own, but these brain injuries can also lead to serious complications , including epilepsy, post-traumatic vertigo, and cognitive impairment, especially when left untreated. According to the scientists at University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurosurgery’s, about 300,000 sports-related concussions occur each year.

"There has been a lot of discussion recently about the significant risk of injury in the NFL and general player safety, particularly regarding concussions," Dr. David Lawrence, lead author of the study and a clinical fellow at St. Michael's Hospital, said in a statement . "The first step in improving player safety and lowering that risk is to identify the factors affecting injury rates. Once we can answer those questions, we can begin to modify player exposure."

Researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital in Canada collected and analyzed data collected for each week over the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 sports seasons for all 32 National Football League (NFL) teams. They found that NFL players had a two-fold greater risk of concussions and a 1.5 times higher risk for ankle injuries when they played in colder weather. According to the study, the higher rates of concussions and injuries occurred when during games played in 50 degrees Fahrenheit or colder when compared with games played in temperatures of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit and higher.

Head impact and concussions are a common consequence of playing contact sports, which usually involve collisions, falls and other forms of physical contact between players. Past research by Lawrence found that the overall risk of injury in the NFL is nearly three times higher than professional rugby, another contact sport, and 25 times higher than the National Hockey League.

"There is limited research looking at the external risk factors for injuries in the NFL," 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."

The findings contribute to a growing body of evidence surrounding the topic of football and concussions. There has been ongoing efforts to reduce concussions in football. One study found helmet-less tackling repetitions could make the sport safer for players.

"Applying this information may help inform future injury prevention strategies in the NFL, or other professional sports, and highlight the effects of these seemingly small external factors,” Lawrence said.

Source: Lawrence D, Comper P, Hutchison M. Influence of Extrinsic Risk Factors on National Football League Injury Rates. Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine . 2016.