Study Indicates Football Injuries May Be Worse Than We Thought And Start Earlier Than We Think
A 2012 study of football injuries, by Virginia Tech, found that children who are aged 7 and 8 have an average of 107 hits to the head during an average football season, some as strong as what they would receive in a car accident.
The football injury study estimated that the NFL players who began playing before the age of 12 were worst off. “As a society we need to question whether we should sanction and condone allowing our children at a young age to having their brains be jostled about inside their skulls hundreds of times per season,” says study author and professor at Boston University Robert A. Stern. According to the study authors, the findings indicate that children are not unaffected by sports if they do not suffer serious concussions, which was the previously-held belief. Children hitting their heads before age 12 affects the brain’s structure and function even with lighter hits. [January 2015, http://time.com/3686088/youth-football-brain-function/]
The study further found, teens playing football may be even more dangerous than previously thought. The study published in the journal Neurology in 2015 studied the cognitive assessments of 42 former NFL players to determine if their brains functioned normally. Surprisingly, the football players performed significantly worse than their adult peers on all cognitive tests.
Just this year, several professional and high school athletes have suffered serious injuries or death as a result of football injuries. A high school boy in New Jersey was killed during an injury sustained while playing football. A boy in Louisiana was also killed from injuries sustained while playing football earlier this year. In Oklahoma, what was described as a “routine tackle” killed a boy playing football. A student from Ohio was severely injured and hospitalized after a football head injury, but luckily was not killed.
Over a hundred professional NFL football players are unable to return to play due to concussions and other serious injuries causing broken bones and other serious health problems.
According to a 2015 report by Time Magazine, there may be one easy way to make football safer for all players from toddlers to grown adults. Aside from reducing the number of hits to the head, a material change could make a big difference in the safety of the sport. According to Ainissa Ramirez, author of the book Newton’s Football: The Science Behind America’s Game, better helmets could significantly reduce concussion risk. [October 2015, http://time.com/3686040/super-bowl-nfl-helmets/]
Currently, a team at UCLA is researching an energy-absorbing material called microlattice, which is designed to absorb more shock due to it’s honeycomb-like appearance. If a suitable helmet design is found, it could significantly reduce concussions for all ages, which is good news after the study that found that all hits to the head are damaging, particularly if they occur in children younger than 12. Until the new helmet material is approved, it is up to parents to keep their children safe on the field. One easy way is to simply not enroll children in football until after the age of 12.
[October 2015, http://www.vindy.com/news/2015/sep/25/concussion-conclusion/]
[October 2015, http://www.10tv.com/content/stories/2015/09/26/washington-n.j.-ap-high-school-football-player-dies-after-being-hurt-in-game.html]
[October 2015, http://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2015/injuries.htm]