Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Call for End to High-Impact Youth Football Drills
The study, published in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering, used helmets embedded with sensors to track hits among a team of 7- and 8-year-old players and found that some of the hits were as strong as those experienced by college players. Unlike college and high school players, however, the frequency of severe hits was higher during practice than during games.
The results of a study of youth football players conducted by Virginia Tech in conjunction with Wake Forest are drawing attention to how practice drills are conducted. |
Directed by Stefan Duma of Virginia Tech (pictured), the study used sensor-embedded helmets to collect data among youth players. Photo Courtesy Jim Stroup / Virginia Tech
The practice drills, researchers say, go beyond what a player would realistically experience during a game situation. Moreover, younger players lack the same neck strength as older players and thus are more susceptible to injury from hard hits. The authors of the study recommend restructuring of practice drills to eliminate high-impact hits, focusing instead on proper tackling techniques and emphasizing fundamental skill sets.
The study results are of special value to the Sports Legacy Institute, which is calling for more research and better policies to address head impacts in young athletes through the recent launch of its “Hit Count” proposal. “I am shocked to see that these children receive levels of brain trauma comparable to college football players," SLI co-founder Chris Nowinski told ESPN. “The finding that the majority of high level (hits) came in practice provides more evidence that football needs to follow the lead of the NFL and Ivy League and restrict hitting in practice."
The Virginia Tech and Wake Forest research team is planning to follow up the study with a new project, called the Kinematics of Impact Data Set (KIDS), which will track head impacts among a full range of youth football players from ages 6 to 18. Using special helmets, researchers will collect data from three teams in North Carolina and three in Virginia over the course of their seasons. Researchers hope the results of the expanded study will prove useful for improving the design of youth football helmets, as well as head protection for other sports.