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Youth Football Study Suggests Limited Negative Impacts

February 2, 2014, 9:55 PM by Jared Ransom

Youth Football Study Suggests Limited Negative Impacts

A momentum shift could soon be coming in the game of public opinion about football. Dr. Thayne Munce with Sanford Health was not convinced that all the studies about football and concussions were telling the whole story, so he took matters into his own hands.

"We didn't know, and that's really the important question is that people didn't know whether playing football as a 12, 13, 14 year old causes you to have impaired balance or a loss of memory just by getting hit in the head several hundred times over the course of the season," Munce said.

He says the conversation has focused too much on those who are already injured and already at the professional level.  Munce wanted his focus to be on youth football players, so he performed neurological tests on 10 players over the course of a season. His results, published in the Journal of Child Neurology, line up with his original thought.

"What we found was that there weren't any deficits in any of the measures that we use, and these were measures of balance and reaction time, memory. In fact, in all the cases in all the players, they had no deficits and in some cases, there were some improvements," Munce said.

His results suggest the impact of playing football may be exaggerated, but even Munce says that it is too early to say the findings will bring more people back to a contact sport seeing participation diminish.

"Now, we're seeing so many other players that aren't even suffering from concussions that are asking the questions, 'Even though I'm not getting hurt or suffering a concussion over the course of the season, am I still putting myself at risk?'" Munce said.

Munce continued his research this past football season using an accelerometer, which measured the force and location of impacts on the head. He says results are similar to the first year of his study, but this is just the start of further investigation.

To read the study by Munce, you can go to the Journal of Child Neurology website.

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