As Young Football Players Age, Hits to the Head Increase

The risk for head injuries in high school, college, and pro football players has received a lot of attention in recent years. But a new study shows that hits to the head are an issue for younger players, too. And as kids grow older and bigger, the head impacts get stronger.

The study included nearly 100 youth football players ages 9 to 13. Their helmets were equipped with sensors that recorded head impacts during practices and games during a four-year period. All told, researchers recorded more than 40,000 hits to the head. That’s the largest pool of head impact data ever collected in youth football players.

Head Impacts Are a Concern in Both Practices and Games

About two-thirds of all head impacts occurred during practices. That’s also where younger players sustained the most forceful impacts. As players got older and larger, however, they were more likely to take the hardest hits to the head during games.

At all ages, players varied widely in how many hits to the head they sustained. The number of head impacts for a single player in a full season ranged from 26 to 1,003.

Stress Safety on the Field, and Know Signs of a Concussion

If you’re a football parent, look for a coach who:

  • Checks that helmets fit well and are in good condition

  • Limits contact during practices—for example, by limiting scrimmages and full-speed drills

  • Teaches players to avoid dangerous actions, such as helmet-to-helmet contact and illegal tackles

  • Know how to recognize a concussion. Warning signs include acting dazed or confused, forgetting plays, moving clumsily, answering questions slowly, and passing out, even briefly. If these signs occur, seek medical help right away.

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