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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Head Injury in Youth Football

Children under the age of 14 account for 70 percent of all football players in the US; yet, head impact exposure in youth players is not well documented. In the largest study of its kind, published in the July 24 online edition of Annals of Biomedical Engineering, Bryan R. Cobb, MS, and colleagues from Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University set out to quantify the head impact exposure of players between the ages of 9 and 12. Over the course of the football season, investigators recorded 11,978 impacts for this group. They also found that the most head injuries were sustained during football practicenot during games.

     The researchers measured head impact by inserting sensors into the helmets of 50 players on three teams in two different leagues. The average number of impacts, they found, was 240 ± 147 per player for the season. Some of the high magnitude impacts were comparable to those seen at a high school or college level.

     However, they found that players on team A experienced an average of 37 to 46 percent fewer impacts than players on teams B and C. The authors attributed this difference to Team A's "
concerted effort to limit contact in practices." Team A also held fewer practices, which further reduced the number of impacts per player, Cobb and colleagues wrote. 

      Researchers should continue to collect data on head injury in youth football, the investigators wrote, and contact during practice should be limited in order to reduce head injury impacts. “Further research is required to assess whether such a reduction in head impact exposure will result in a reduction in concussion incidence,” they concluded.


      For more information, see our collection of articles on concussion and dementia: