Ray W. Daniel1, Steven Rowson1 and Stefan M. Duma1
||Center for Injury Biomechanics, Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University, 440 ICTAS Building, Stanger St., Blacksburg, VA, 24061, USA
Received: 1 February 2012 Accepted: 3 February 2012 Published online: 15 February 2012
Associate Editor K. A. Athanasiou oversaw the review of this article.
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.
Sports related concussions have received increased public awareness, with many states considering or implementing laws directing the response to suspected brain injury. This is a result new research suggesting possible links to long-term consequences from repetitive concussions.13,21,22 Emergency department visits for concussions increased 62% between 2001 and 2009, and researchers estimate that between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports related concussion occur each year in the United States.5,19 Of all sports, football accounts for the highest incidence of concussion, and therefore receives the most attention.34 One of the leading thoughts to minimize the incidence of concussion in football is to limit players’ exposure to head impacts.9 Strategies to reduce a player’s exposure to head impact include teaching proper tackling techniques and modifying the rules of the game.