Multiplayer tackle drills led to the highest frequency of head impacts, according to findings recently published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.
“There is only a limited understanding of how head impact exposure varies among specific practice drills,” Mireille E. Kelley, a graduate student at the department of biomedical engineering at Virginia Tech–Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, and colleagues wrote.
Researchers collected data from 2,125 impacts experienced by nine athletes aged 10 to 13 years during practice. Head impact exposure was measured by impacts per player per minute and peak linear and rotational head acceleration.
Kelley and colleagues found the multiplayer tackle drill led to the highest head impact frequency. There were significant variations in linear acceleration and impact rate among the 30 practices studied, with an average of 0.59 impacts per minute per athlete. The front of the head was the most frequent impact location for all drills except dummy/sled tackling. In addition, open-field tackling had the highest median and 95th percentile linear accelerations and led to significantly higher mean head accelerations than several other drills.
“Reducing time spent on contact drills relative to minimal or no contact drills may not lower overall head impact exposure,” Jillian Urban, PhD, and assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Wake Forest Baptist Health, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, said in a press release.
“Instead, interventions such as reducing the speed of players engaged in contact, correcting tackling technique, and then progressing to contact may reduce head impact exposure,” she added.
Additional studies should examine the differences in head impact severity among tackling techniques in football and the associated head impact mechanism to better ascertain how to limit head impact exposure, according to the release. – by Janel Miller
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.