New Study Finds Youth Football Players Have Significant Differences in Head Impact Exposure

June 20, 2017

A study of 97 youth football players ages 9 to 13 years who participated in different age- and weight- based levels over four seasons of play found that that youngsters experienced a total of 40,538 head impacts. Measures of linear head acceleration and the number of impacts per player in competition versus practice sessions differed significantly depending on the youngsters' age/weight level, as reported in the study published in the June issue of the Journal of Neurotrauma.

Joel Stitzel, Ph.D., Wake Forest School of Medicine, and coauthors from Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences and University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, TX presented their findings in the article entitled “Head Impact Exposure in Youth Football: Comparing Age and Weight Based Levels of Play.”

The researchers emphasize that the significant increases seen in the magnitudes of head impact from one level to the next suggest that all youth athletes should not be evaluated as one group when assessing head impact exposure and injury risk. The data obtained from this type of study can be useful for designing evidence-based interventions.

“As controversy rages in relation to the damaging consequences of youth football, this study is particularly timely. It forces us to recalibrate our understanding of youth head impact exposure not only in practice and game day settings but also in the context of the athlete’s age,” said John T. Povlishock, Ph.D., editor-in-chief of the Journal of Neurotrauma and professor, Medical College of Virginia.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the under Award Numbers R01NS094410 and R01NS082453 and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences under Award Number KL2TR001421. 

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