Researchers at my graduate Alma Mater, Virginia Tech, have been studying head traumas in youth football. Here is a bit from the article:
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 18, 2011 – Virginia Tech released today results from the first study ever to instrument child football helmets. Youth football helmets are currently designed to the same standards as adult helmets, even though little is known about how child football players impact their heads. This is the first study to investigate the head impact characteristics in youth football, and will greatly enhance the development of improved helmets specifically designed for children.
The Auburn Eagles, a local, Montgomery County, Va., youth team consisting of 6- to 8-year-old boys, has participated in the study since August. The helmets of the child football players are instrumented with custom 12 accelerometer arrays that measure how a child’s head responds to impact. Each time a player impacts his head, data is recorded and wirelessly downloaded to a computer on the sideline.
The technology is similar to what Virginia Tech has used since 2003 to instrument its collegiate football team. “The research conducted with the Virginia Tech football team has led to a better understanding of head impacts in football and how they relate to concussions,” said Stefan Duma, the Virginia Tech professor of biomedical engineering and department head of the Virginia Tech – Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences that directs this project.
Furthermore, this research has led to the development of the National Impact Database, which contains the first safety rating system ever available for adult football helmets (STAR Evaluation System). Similar developments for youth football are anticipated from the current study with the Auburn Eagles.
“Based on eight years of studying head impacts experienced by Virginia Tech football players, we were able to quantify exposure for adult football players relative to impact location, severity, and frequency,” Duma said. “Unfortunately, we cannot translate the adult exposure to the youth helmets because the impact conditions of youth football are completely unknown. To solve this problem, we are applying the same approach that we have used with the Virginia Tech football team to a youth football team,” Duma added.
You can read the rest here. I’m interested in seeing where this research leads. Concerns about unnecessary head trauma is part of our reasoning for not encouraging our kids to consider sports like football or hockey for their activities. This is definitely a study/story to watch over the next few months/years.