Research may lead to fewer youth football injuries

Varying rules and policies among leagues is a factor

Two South Carolina youth football leagues were the subjects of a two-year study looking at athlete injuries across all age groups. The data collected during the research  conducted by the Athletic Training Department at the University of South Carolina could result in better safety policies within the leagues and, most importantly, fewer player injuries.

The results of the study are not yet published, but they look promising. The biggest predictor of injury appears to be league culture, not size or age, according to Jim Mensch, director of the program. Apparently every league has different policies, procedures, and safety standards and there seems to be a correlation there that indicates which players are more at risk for injury.

Part of the data was collected using 60 accelerometers. The high-tech devices were attached to players’ heads to measure collision force during practices and games. The information can then be downloaded for analysis.  USC is one of only a few institutions currently using this technology for research in youth football.

The early findings

Out of the 4000 players included in the study, 10 percent reported injuries that included everything  ranging from serious bruising to broken bones. Researchers also found that approximately 3 percent of the athletes experienced concussion-like symptoms.  That’s lower than the 7-9 percent reported in studies conducted on high school and college players.

Dehydration also appeared to be a significant factor in the number of injuries suffered. The study showed that players consumed adequate fluids during games and practices, but most were arriving to practice and games moderately dehydrated. It seems that players made good use of the fluids provided by the team and the water bottles they bring from home, but weren’t drinking sufficient fluids prior to arrival. Even with the water provided during play time, the sweat excreted left them chronically dehydrated.

The study’s other positive results

The parents and league organizers are delighted about the medical attention the players get from the study.  Many of the injuries get diagnosed and treated at practices and games by the athletic trainers conducting the study, rather than leaving parents and coaches to decide if a trip to the emergency room or a doctor’s office is necessary.

The study is being extended for one more year and will include more leagues in the area.


Source: Joey Holleman, “Study takes 2-year look at youth football injuries,” 22 Aug. 2014