September 26, 2017
1 min read

Exposure to head impact varied in practice drills for youth football team

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Results from this study demonstrated youth football practice drills had significant differences in head impact exposure, with high-magnitude and/or high-frequency head impacts seen with particular drills.

Study co-author Mireille E. Kelley, MS, graduate student in biomechanical engineering at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, told, “We found that the severity and number of head impacts varies significantly among practice drills in youth football. Specifically, practice drills with multiple player involvement, such as multi-player tackle and Oklahoma, resulted in high numbers of impacts per player.”

She added, “We also found that full-speed tackling drills resulted in high-severity head impacts. For example, we found that open-field tackling, a one-on-one tackling drill with starting positions greater than 3 yards apart, resulted in the hardest hits. This work, along with further research, is an important step in developing evidence-based recommendations for modifying practice structure to reduce head impact exposure in youth football and improve safety of the sport.”

For a single season, Kelley and colleagues collected on-field head impact data from athletes who participated in youth football. Investigators had each player during pre-season, regular season and play-off practices wear a helmet with a Head Impact Telemetry system head acceleration measurement device. To verify head impacts and to assign the head impact to a specific drill, investigators performed a video analysis. Differences in head acceleration and impact rates were assessed with Wald tests.

During 30 contact practices, investigators noted there were nine athletes with 2,125 impacts. The highest median and 95th percentile linear accelerations were seen with open-field tackling and, compared with other drills, it had a significantly higher mean head acceleration. The highest head impact frequency was seen with the multiplayer tackle drill. On average, it yielded 0.59 impacts per minute per athlete; however, it had the lowest 95th percentile linear accelerations compared with all other drills. For all drills, apart from the dummy/sled tackling, investigators found the most common impact location was the front of the head. – by Monica Jaramillo


Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.