A new study found that in youth football, concussions take place significantly more often during games compared to practice. Overall, players were 26 times more likely to suffer a concussion in a game than in practice.
The research, conducted by the University of Pittsburgh and Cornell University, is scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics. Scientists analyzed the incidence rates of concussion in youth football players aged 8 to 12 years old.
Anthony Kontos and his colleagues from Pittsburgh and Cornell studied 468 participants, 8 to 12 years, from four youth tackle football leagues, consisting of 18 teams.
Player exposures were recorded for both games and practices, according to a press release on the study. There were 11,338 total player exposures during the study period, with 20 medically diagnosed concussions involving 20 different participants. Only two concussions took place during practice, while 18 occurred during games.
Players aged 11 to 12 were nearly three times more likely to have a concussion than players aged 8 to 10, the study found.
Most of the concussions involved helmet-to-helmet contact, with 95 percent involving players in skilled positions, such as running back, quarterback and linebacker.
The incidence rate during games was roughly twice as high than previously reported, while the practice rate was comparable or even lower than previous findings.
About 3 million youth participate in tackle football in the United States. Pop Warner, the largest organized league with 425,000 participants, recently limited contact practice time to reduce concussions.
But in light of the findings of this study, that really doesn’t make sense, because “contact practice time is when proper tackling technique can be taught and reinforced in a controlled environment,” according to the press release.
“Limiting contact practice in youth football may not only have little effect on reducing concussions, but may instead actually increase the incidence of concussions in games via reduced time learning proper tackling in practice,” Kontos said in a statement.
A better approach to reducing concussions in youth football may be to focus on awareness and education among youth football administrators, coaches, parents, and players, he advised.