Head impact exposure measured in a single youth football team during practice drills
Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics, Ahead of Print.
OBJECTIVEThis study evaluated the frequency, magnitude, and location of head impacts in practice drills within a youth football team to determine how head impact exposure varies among different types of drills.METHODSOn-field head impact data were collected from athletes participating in a youth football team for a single season. Each athlete wore a helmet instrumented with a Head Impact Telemetry (HIT) System head acceleration measurement device during all preseason, regular season, and playoff practices. Video was recorded for all practices, and video analysis was performed to verify head impacts and assign each head impact to a specific drill. Eleven drills were identified: dummy/sled tackling, install, special teams, Oklahoma, one-on-one, open-field tackling, passing, position skill work, multiplayer tackle, scrimmage, and tackling drill stations. Generalized linear models were fitted to log-transformed data, and Wald tests were used to assess differences in head accelerations and impact rates.RESULTSA total of 2125 impacts were measured during 30 contact practices in 9 athletes (mean age 11.1 ± 0.6 years, mean mass 44.9 ± 4.1 kg). Open-field tackling had the highest median and 95th percentile linear accelerations (24.7g and 97.8g, respectively) and resulted in significantly higher mean head accelerations than several other drills. The multiplayer tackle drill resulted in the highest head impact frequency, with an average of 0.59 impacts per minute per athlete, but the lowest 95th percentile linear accelerations of all drills. The front of the head was the most common impact location for all drills except dummy/sled tackling.CONCLUSIONSHead impact exposure varies significantly in youth football practice drills, with several drills exposing athletes to high-magnitude and/or high-frequency head impacts. These data suggest that further study of practice drills is an important step in developing evidence-based recommendations for modifying or eliminating certain high-intensity drills to reduce head impact exposure and injury risk for all levels of play.