Virginia Tech and Wake Forest researchers Ray W. Daniel, Steven Rowson, and Stefan M. Duma have published a new research article on impact telemetry on youth football players. The abstract is as follows;
The head impact exposure for athletes involved in football at the college and high school levels has been well documented; however, the head impact exposure of the youth population involved with football has yet to be investigated, despite its dramatically larger population. The objective of this study was to investigate the head impact exposure in youth football. Impacts were monitored using a custom 12 accelerometer array equipped inside the helmets of seven players aged 7–8 years old during each game and practice for an entire season. A total of 748 impacts were collected from the 7 participating players during the season, with an average of 107 impacts per player. Linear accelerations ranged from 10 to 100 g, and the rotational accelerations ranged from 52 to 7694 rad/s2. The majority of the high level impacts occurred during practices, with 29 of the 38 impacts above 40 g occurring in practices. Although less frequent, youth football can produce high head accelerations in the range of concussion causing impacts measured in adults. In order to minimize these most severe head impacts, youth football practices should be modified to eliminate high impact drills that do not replicate the game situations.
There are some very interesting findings in the abstract alone that need to be noted:
- Age of the participants (7-8 years old)
- 107 impacts per player
- Top end of observed G forces
- 76% of the high-end impacts were at PRACTICE
- Possible validation of both the ‘Hit Count‘ and ‘Delayed Participation in Tackle Football‘
The article appears in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering and as Stefan Duma wrote to me;
Our paper containing the youth football head impact data has been published and is now available for download from the Annals of Biomedical Engineering. We paid the copyright fee to Springer so that the paper can be downloaded and shared for free by anyone.
Here is the LINK. The study does have limitations the most obvious being the sample size, but interestingly enough extrapolating said data across youth football conservatively creates many issues. The study concludes with urging further research and education in this matter;
In conclusion, this study is the first to report the head impact biomechanics associated with youth football. Valuable insight to the head impact exposure in youth football has been presented. While youth football players impact their heads less frequently than high school and college players, and have impact distributions more heavily weighted toward low magnitude impacts; high magnitude impacts still occur. Interestingly, the majority of these high magnitude impacts occur during practice. Restructuring youth football practices may be an effective method of reducing the head impact exposure in youth football. These data are the basis of educated decisions about future changes to youth football and have applications toward determining guidelines for youth-specific helmet design.
It may not be feasible in terms of money, but again this emphasizes the need for proper medical professional oversight, ATHLETIC TRAINERS.