Researchers using sensors to measure youth football players’ exposure to head impacts note seeing more of such impacts occurring during tackling drills than during the actual game.

The study, published in Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics focuses on head impacts among football-playing youths ages 9 to 14.

In the study, researchers from the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics at Virginia Tech used biomechanical sensors to investigate exposure to head impacts among two teams of football-playing youths, ages 9 to 11, comprising a total of 34 players. Inside each child’s football helmet was an accelerometer array that recorded all head accelerations associated with head impacts and sent this information to a nearby computer, in order to identify specific football drills that result in high-magnitude head impacts (measured as head accelerations greater than 40g), explains a media release from Journal of Neurosurgery Publishing Group.

Data were collected throughout an entire youth football season consisting of 55 practice sessions and 10 games. In 408 instances, the authors identified head acceleration measuring 40g or higher, indicating a high-magnitude impact. One hundred eighteen (118) head impacts exceeded 60g acceleration, and 59 impacts exceeded 70g.

Seventy percent (314) of these high-magnitude head impacts occurred during practice sessions, the release continues.

A greater number of high-magnitude head impacts were associated with tackling drills than with skill drills, even though tackling drills were conducted only half as often as offense or defense skill drills. The authors also identified a higher proportion of impacts greater than 60g in tackling drills (40% to 50%) than in games (25%).

Although only 22% of practice sessions were spent on tackling or blocking drills, the data showed that these drills led to 86% of all high-magnitude head impacts sustained during practice. Based on their findings, the authors suggest that a 10-minute reduction of time spent on tackling and blocking drills during each practice session could reduce the number of high-magnitude head impacts by 38%, per the release.

[Source(s): Journal of Neurosurgery Publishing Group, Science Daily]