AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 3, 2017

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Youth Football: How Young Athletes Are Exposed to High-Magnitude Head Impacts

The majority of football players in the US (70%) are elementary and middle school students. These young athletes enthusiastically put on their gear, learn strategy, acquire skills, and participate in games with their peers. Unfortunately, like their professional counterparts these athletes sometimes get injured. Fairly often they sustain head impacts during tackling and blocking maneuvers. Exposure to head impacts in American football has become a national concern: neurocognitive and brain changes can occur from repeated head impacts, even when no evidence of concussion is found.

To gain a greater understanding of head impacts, researchers from the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics at Virginia Tech examined exposure to these blows in young athletes, 9 to 12 years of age, during football games and practice drills. Their goal was to determine under what circumstances high-magnitude head impacts (linear or rotational accelerations measuring more than 40g, which are more likely to cause concussions than lower-magnitude impacts) occur and how representative practice activities are of game activities with respect to these head impacts. This type of information can help coaches and league officials make informed decisions in structuring both practices and games to reduce risks in these young athletes. 

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Calendar/Courses

15th Annual WCIRDC California
Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2017; Universal City, Calif.

Miami Brain Symposium
Dec. 1, 2017; Coral Gables, FL

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