Sanford study shows fewer head impacts in youth football

Players can benefit from first longitudinal study reported on youth football

A girl carries the football as her youth football team in gray and blue jerseys practices outside on a sunny day. They are all wearing mouthguards to protect from head impacts.

Sanford Research found a 79% reduction in head impacts after studying a youth football team for eight consecutive seasons.

The manuscript, “Head Impact Exposure of a Youth Football Team over Eight Consecutive Seasons,” was recently published online in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Dr. Thayne Munce of Sanford Research was the principal investigator of the study. His research team keenly studied one youth football team, coached by the same coaching staff, during the 2012–2019 seasons.

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Helmet-mounted impact monitors were used to measure the number of head impacts players experienced as well as the severity of the impacts.

“Throughout the study, we saw a remarkable reduction in head impacts that players experienced during practices and games,” said Dr. Munce. “While we did not identify the specific factor(s) responsible for the observed decrease, changes in coaching and/or player behavior in response to education and awareness of concussions and the dangers of repetitive head impacts are likely explanations.”

Munce also noted that the team adopted USA Football’s Heads Up Football program during the first year of the study, which may have contributed to players developing safer methods of play.

The study provides proof of concept that it’s possible and realistic to be able to achieve significant decreases in head impacts over a short period of time through intentional changes in coaching and player behavior.

“It’s because of people like Dr. Munce and organizations like Sanford Health that we are learning how to make sports safer for our children,” said Bart Oates, president of the NFL Alumni Association.

For more information about Dr. Munce and his lab at Sanford Research, visit research.sanfordhealth.org.

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Posted In Research, Sports Medicine

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