Two-year youth football player safety surveillance study to be completed and released in 2014
USA Football has released preliminary findings following the first year of a two-year study to examine player health and safety in organized youth tackle football.
USA Football, the sport’s national governing body, commissioned the study in February 2012 with Indianapolis-based Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention. The independent scientific study, monitors 10 youth football leagues in six states and is believed to be the first of its scope in youth football’s 80-plus year history.
The research documents player health and any sustained injuries during the course of the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Final results are expected in the first quarter of 2014. USA Football anticipates conducting ongoing research in future years to advance youth player safety.
Among the first-year findings, which included more than 60,000 individual athlete exposures (participation in a practice or game) for nearly 2,000 youth football players on more than 100 individual teams:
- More than 90 percent of the 1,913 youth players did not suffer an injury that restricted participation.
- Fewer than 10 percent of players incurred an injury, and of those injuries, 64 percent were minor where athletes returned to play on the same day.
- Contusions were the most common injuries (35 percent), followed by ligament sprains (15 percent).
- Fewer than 4 percent of the youth players sustained a concussion.
- Similar to other levels of football, youth football players were more likely to be injured during games than practices.
- No catastrophic head, neck or heat-related injuries were reported.
Ten youth football leagues of varying size and demographics in Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, South Carolina and West Virginia comprise the study’s nationally representative research pool. Individual leagues are undisclosed to preserve the anonymity of the participants.
USA Football’s study aims to provide new information for America’s football community, including:
- Observations about player safety at different ages, as well as game versus practice situations;
- Playing standards (player age; player age and weight) and their relation to player safety; and
- The level and variance of player safety in organized youth tackle football.
“The health and safety of every youth football player is our No. 1 priority,” USA Football Executive Director SCOTT HALLENBECK said. “For the millions of children across the country who gain the physical, social and psychological rewards that youth football provides, this ground-breaking research will enable us to make the sport better and safer with scientifically-gathered information.”
“We need more studies like this across all of youth sports,” USA Football Medical Director DR. PATRICK KERSEY said. Kersey, a physician for Indianapolis-based St.Vincent Sports Performance, is a member of numerous medical associations, including the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and the American College of Sports Medicine. “Such a commitment to research is how we advance player safety, determine best practices and continue football’s evolution, which has always been part of the game’s legacy. Our hope is that more sports will take similar steps for their young athletes.”
The Datalys Center places athletic trainers at the leagues’ practice and game fields to manage and document player health. The Datalys Center employs the same intensive methodology to USA Football’s Youth Football Safety Surveillance Study as it does for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Injury Surveillance Program and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) Injury Surveillance and Outcomes Network (NATIONTM).
Results of this study will further strengthen USA Football’s widely used development resources, employed by youth football leagues in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. These include its Heads Up FootballSM program, digital player and coach skill development resources at usafootball.com, a unified youth football rule book and recommended practices for leagues nationwide.
USA Football has educated more than 100,000 youth football coaches since 2007 to best teach the sport and manage player health, including suspected concussion, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Approximately 2.8 million children age 6-14 play organized youth tackle football, placing it among the most popular youth sports in the U.S. Indianapolis-based USA Football is the official youth football development partner of the NFL and each of the league’s 32 teams as well as the NCAA’s Atlantic Coast Conference.
About Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention:A national 501(c)3 non-profit organization that conducts and facilitates research and surveillance programs. The Datalys Center programs aim to support the sports injury information needs of organizations focused on improving the health and safety of the growing number of Americans who are physically active. Through the Datalys Center’s collection and application of injury and treatment information, policies and education can be developed in order to understand and prevent sports injuries more effectively. For more information, visit www.datalyscenter.org
About USA Football: USA Football leads the game’s development, inspires participation and ensures a better and safer experience for all youth, high school and other amateur players. The independent nonprofit is the official youth football development partner of the NFL, its 32 teams and the NCAA’s Atlantic Athletic Conference. USA Football (www.usafootball.com), endowed by the NFL and NFLPA in 2002, provides more than $1 million annually in equipment grants and youth league volunteer background check subsidies.