The research, which was published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, found that parents, coaches and kids need to be more vigilant about concussion-prevention at practices than during games. Researchers gathered data from three large injury surveillance surveys that evaluated the 2012 and 2013 seasons of 118 youth football teams, 96 high school teams and 24 college teams.
Using this information, researchers found that for kids in youth football programs, 54 percent of concussions occurred during games. But at the high school and college levels, only 42 percent of concussions happened during games while 58 percent occurred during practices. Overall, high school football players had the highest rate of concussions during practices.
Why are so many head injuries occurring during practice as football players get older? There are probably a few factors at work that contribute to the increase. For starters, athletes practice more as they get older, so their risk of injury at practice increases. Also, high school and college football teams tend to be larger with a number of replacement players. That means that these kids see more action during practice than they do during games.
The study's authors note that while some concussion-prevention strategies wouldn't work during the high intensity of a game, they could be utilized during practices to minimize the risk of injury. For instance, the University of New Hampshire Wildcats practice without helmets so that they can practice making hits "chest to chest" rather than "skull to skull." Players also wear tiny sensors behind their ears during practice that measure the frequency and intensity of hits to the head during practices.
Making the extra effort during practices to prevent injury could go a long way towards helping kids stay healthy during practice and at the game.
This study was funded by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, USA Football, and the National Athletic Trainers Association Research and Education Foundation.
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