Children playing tackle football are more likely to sustain a concussion during games and not practice, according to recent study results published in The Journal of Pediatrics.
“In the US, there are approximately 3 million youth participating in tackle football compared with 2,000 professional, 100,000 collegiate, and 1.3 million high school participants,” researchers wrote. “Organized youth tackle football leagues such as Pop Warner report that approximately 425,000 athletes ranging from 5 to 16 years are involved in their tackle football programs.”
The study included 468 male football players aged 8 to 12 years playing during the 2011 youth football season.
Researchers analyzed 11,338 (8,415 practices and 2,923 games) athletic exposures in which 20 medically diagnosed concussions occurred. Forty-five percent of the concussions were caused by head-to-head contact.
The incidence rate for concussions during practices and games was 1.76 per 1,000 athletic exposures (95% CI, 0.99-2.54). The incidence rate for concussions during practices was 0.24 per 1,000 athletic exposures (95% CI, 0.04-0.79) and 6.16 per 1,000 athletic exposures (95% CI, 3.76-9.54) during games.
“The results suggest that instead of reducing contact practice time, youth football leagues should focus on awareness and education about concussion,” researchers wrote. “We believe that practice is when tackling technique can be taught and reinforced in a much safer environment than in games.”
The combined concussion incidence rate for participants aged 8 to 10 years was 0.93 per 1,000 athletic exposures (95% CI, 0.30-2.16) compared with 2.53 per 1,000 athletic exposures (95% CI, 1.41-4.17) for participants aged 11 to 12 years.
“We believe that youth football is a generally safe activity with regard to concussions for children aged 8 to 12 years, particularly during practice,” researchers wrote.
Disclosure: The study was funded by the NFL Foundation Medical Research Grant.