Padded helmets and safe tackling and blocking techniques can reduce the chance of head injuries for middle school football players, a new study finds.
Young athletes make up 70% of America's amateur and pro football players. As head injuries in older athletes have been linked to a slew of brain injuries, attention is now turning to the safety of the younger players.
Robert Heary, director of the Center for Spine Surgery and Mobility at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark, said parents are understandably concerned that their football-playing boys are at risk for the same long-term brain and nervous system injuries reported in older players.
"Although concussions causing readily observable signs and symptoms are of great concern to physicians examining football players during and after games, the effects of other head trauma with fewer symptoms also can result in long-term damage," he said.
Rutgers researchers monitored 20 members of a youth football team in New Jersey.
Players were equipped with helmets that tracked the number and severity of impacts during a 20-practice, seven-game season. Additionally, a tackling coach taught the team and coach safe techniques for tackling and blocking. For practices, special helmets with a padded cover called Guardian Caps were worn.
Each player averaged about 41 impacts and 20 minutes of full contact per practice, but no concussions were recorded.
"The use of Guardian Caps, safe tackling techniques and the age of participants may have contributed to the very low number of impacts recorded and the complete lack of injuries," Heary said in a news release.
The study was recently published in the journal Neurosurgery.
Mayo Clinic has more on concussions.