Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Best Post of May 2012: New Study Looks at Head Impacts in Youth Football

The next in our "Best of the Month" series is from May 14, 2012:

We neuropathologists, and society as a whole, have spent a lot of time over the last couple of years rethinking the long-term effects of repeated concussive and subconcussive blows to the heads of professional and college football players. But what about the 3.5 million kids in American who play below the high school level? Dr. Peter Cummings today sent me a link to a report regarding groundbreaking research being done at Virginia Tech in which impact-measurement instruments were placed on 7 and 8-year-old football players. Data was collected on more than 750 hits to the head over the course of the season.

Lead researcher, Stefan Duma, a professor of Biomedical Engineering, reports that some head impacts in youth football are equal in force to some of the bigger hits he sees at the college level.  The average kid received 107 head impacts during the course of the season. This is fewer than seen in high school (which averages about 500 per season) and college (which amounts to about 1000 per season.). But what about the magnitude of these hits? The median impact was 15 g's. In Duma's study, there were 38 impacts that were 40 g or greater (almost all of which occurred during practice). Six impacts were over 80 g's, which starts to get into the range of risk for concussion. “Nobody expected to see hits of this magnitude,” says Duma, who speculates that once players start seeing hits of 30 g's or above, there is a risk for cumulative injury.

Here's the video report from reporter Stone Philips. The interviews with the parents of these youth players perplexed me. All of the parents featured found the results concerning, but none expressed any thoughts about having their child switch to another sport.

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