Sanford Research study shows decrease in youth football head impacts

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A local study could impact youth football across the U.S. It turns out the right kind of coaching can be just as important as a good helmet.

Sanford Researchers spent eight years studying youth football.

“So a lot of people have the question, is it safe? More dangerous now than it was in the past, or is it safer?” principal investigator of the study Thayne Munce said.

For the study, players wore helmet-mounted sensors. From 2012 to 2019, there was a 79 percent decrease in head impacts.

“Our outcome measures were primarily focused on those head impact frequency numbers. We also did look at the severity measures as well, but the big changes we saw were in the number of impacts that players experienced,” Munce said.

Researchers say players and coaches may have played a role in that change.

During practice, coaches have been focused on teaching kids to physically keep their head out of the game to avoid injuries.

“The way that coaches teach the game and instruct the game, and also ways in which players play the game and go about, and how they tackle and how they block,” Munce said.

“We’re all required to go through training each year with USA Football, so we’ve had in the past trainers come out and we go through all the drills and skills that we’re going to be teaching the kids,” youth football coach Ryan Mediger said.

That training resonates with the players.

“Drop down, get low. Keep your head up. You don’t want to drop your head and go into someone else just with your head. Just for me, just keep my head up, go low,” player Cason Mediger said.

“They teach us to put our shoulder into them instead of our head. Keep our head out of the play,” player Tyson Sycz said.

All techniques that keep players safe on the field.

“That’s what we’re about is being safe and working with the kids and making sure that they’re not only safe in hitting, but they’re hydrated on hot days and so on and so forth,” South Dakota Junior Football president J.J. Kieso said.

And now there is proof that it’s making a difference.

Munce says they will continue to study head impacts and have already started this year. To read more about the study, you can find it here.

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