Posts Tagged ‘youth football injuries’

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


Mother refiles Pop Warner football suit

Did coaches violate tackling guidelines?

Additional claims and the inclusion of more defendants are the reasons behind a lawsuit being refiled against Pop Warner. Donnovan Hill, 16, is the subject of a lawsuit that was filed after being hit during a Midget Orange Bowl championship game in 2011. Hill, 13 at the time, was left parYouth tacklealyzed after tackling a running back.

Details of the amended complaint

Hills mother, Crystal Dixon, amended her complaint to include lack of training for coaches and use of a tackling technique banned by the Pop Warner league. The suit names Pop Warner, league affiliates, coaches, and the local Pop Warner board of directors. Lawyers for Dixon say the defendants are liable for instruction in an incorrect tackling technique. Hill and others on the team complained of pain and questioned their coach about the safety of tackling by leading with the head. The plaintiff asserts that coaches ignored the players’ concerns.

Rob Carey of the law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro intends to prove that the coaches ignored the coaching guidelines on how players in the league are required to tackle. Carey will provide videotape evidence of Hill’s coaches specifically and repeatedly ordering their players to make hazardous tackles in clear violation of Pop Warner guidelines.

Preventing future incidents

Hill is a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair and the subject of an ESPN video. Dixon’s attorneys suspect that coaches instructing players to use the dangerous head-first technique is widespread. They are seeking maximum damages allowable by law, including punitive damages and hope the case will help put an end to the dangerous practice.

Pop Warner is currently looking to address other safety concerns in youth football. Visit the Sadler Sports blog for youth football injury statistics and other news.

Source: Matt Coker, “Donnovan Hill Lawsuit Against Pop Warner Football Refiled,” OC Weekly. 11 Mar 2014

Image: JamieL.WilliamsPhoto

AYF Releases Tackle Injuries Report

Deciphering the statistics

American Youth Football (AYF) is the largest youth football organization in the U.S. and represents a wide cross section of participants aged 5 to 15. Since 2000, AYF’s endorsed insurance provider, Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance, has collected information on 20 injury categories. The data for each category was input into a database and reports were generated to illustrate the injuries occurring in each category.

AYF constantly reviews and monitors tYOUTH FOOTBALLhis information in an effort to better protect its participants. Should a particular area of concern come to light, more detailed reports can be run to determine if a problem exists that needs additional attention. For example, when concerns arose over the potential dangers of age-only vs. age/weight categories, a report was run that indicated that the risks of injuries in age-only weight categories was about the same as age/weight categories. As regards concussion concerns, AYF will track the frequency of concussions to total injuries over time to determine the impact of parent/player education, coach training on concussion recognition, return to play policies, and improved tackling techniques .

Due to the limitation of this study, it tends to understate minor injuries that were never reported and tends to overstate the more serious injuries that required medical treatment. However, it does represent a statistically significant overview of the frequency of injuries that occur within AYF and youth tackle football as a whole.

Below is a summary of the leading injury statistics by frequency in each category:

  • Absence From Play

41% for 3 + weeks

20% for 1-3 weeks

12% for 1-7 days

11% not specified; 11%, unknown 7%;  none 5%

Note that many of the less serious injuries were never reported as insurance claims. As a result this category tends to overstate the length of time of absence from play.

  • Activity While Injured

32% running with ball

31% tackling

15% blocking

4% running without ball

  • Body Part Injured

12% knee

12% wrist

10% forearm

8% ankle

7% shoulder/collarbone

7% head/temple

5% finger/thumb; 5% elbow; 4% neck; 3% hand; 3% back.

  • Injured Person

98% football player

1% coach; 1% other

  • Injury Type

49% fracture

13% joint sprain/strain

12% bruise/contusion

5% concussion; 4% dislocation; 3% pulled muscle

Note that the percentage of fractures tends to be overstated since many of the less serious injuries (sprains, bruise/contusions,  cuts/scrapes, pulled muscles) are not serious enough to be reported as insurance claims. Also note that the relative frequency of concussions to total injuries is consistent with other youth football studies.

  • Location On Field

93% on field

1% sidelines; 1% practice field

  • Injury Occurred During

51% game

38% practice

A common misconception is that most injuries in youth tackle football occur during practice. The results clearly indicate that most occur during games. Furthermore, only 28% of concussions occur during practice.

  • Type Of Play

45% offense

35% defense

11% other

2% kicking off; 2% receiving kick off

Note that very few injuries occur during kickoff returns. Therefore, the  kickoff rule changes implemented by the NCAA and NFL to limit concussions during kickoffs would not be as beneficial in youth tackle football.

  • Position Played

24% running back

17% defensive line

11% linebacker

11% offensive line

9% quarterback

6% secondary; 4% receiver; 2% kickoff returner

  • Situation

32% tackled by player

14% tackling player

13% fell on/stepped on by player

10% contact with ground

6% collision with opponent; 5% blocked by player; 4% collision with teammate; 4% blocking player; 2% blocked from behind; 1% non-contact.

Click here for more detailed information.

Treating Heat Stress in Athletes

Delay could be fatal

During preseason football practice, numerous athletes fall victim to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and some will even die. Most cases can be prevented through coach, parent, and player education and by following established guidelines.

These guidelines include preseason physicals or medical clearance, proper hydration, heat acclimatization, equipment modification, activity modification, postponement/cancellation based upon wet bulb temperature index, and recognition/treatment. I was recently reading one of my favorite sports risk management publications, From Gym to Jury, and came across an excellent article that you can read by clicking on the link below.

Source: Frederick Mueller, “Heat Stress and Athletic Participation, From Gym to Jury, Vol. 24, No 2.

Youth Football Concussions During Practice

Results of study surprise many

In a prior blog on concussion rule changes, we stated that the new Pop Warner Football concussion rule to limit contact in practice would have a limited effect as only 28 percent of all youth football concussions occur in practice according to American Youth Football (AYF) injury statistics.

Now, a new study by the University Of Pittsburgh and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and funded by the NFL has drawn a similar but more compelling conclusion. The study found that youth tackle football players aged 8 to 12 were at a low risk of suffering a concussion in practice.  (.024 incidences per 1000 exposures), but that the risk was 26 times higher in games (6.16 incidences per 1000 exposures).

“This finding suggests that reducing contact-practice exposures in youth football, which some leagues have done recently, will likely have little effect on reducing concussion risk, as few concussions actually occur in practice. Instead of reducing contact-practice time, youth football leagues should focus on awareness and education about concussions,” said Anthony Kontos, an associate professor at UPMC.

Many experts agree that practice time should focus on proper tackling techniques and instruction instead of head contact.

Leaning on science, not the media

These recommendations are exactly what AYF has been preaching. We recommend against knee jerk reactions to the media frenzy on the concussion issue.  Making hasty safety rule decisions that are not backed by science isn’t a wise move. Instead, wait on the results from the ongoing scientific studies.  In the meantime, focus on educating coaches on recognizing the signs and symptoms of concussions, concussed player removal and medical treatment, and return-to-play protocol. In addition, concentrate on proper tackling technique.

AYF has included concussion awareness training in its coach certification program.

More interesting statistics from the study

The incident rate of concussions in practice and games combined is three times higher in the 11 to 12-year-old age category as compared to 8 to 10-year-old age category.  Just as the AYF injury studies have revealed, there is a direct correlation between age and injuries in youth tackle football. The older athletes are stronger, faster, and more coordinated, hitting with harder force. See our prior blog on the issue of age only vs age/weight categories.

Player in the “skill positions of  quarterback, running back, and linebacker make up 95 percent of youth football concussions.

Source: “Study: Kids Get Fewer Concussions In Practices Than In Games.” June 6, 2013.