Although most of the focus on the dangers of concussions has been aimed at the NFL, youth football can be a dangerous place for young children.
Yes, it is dangerous to play if you’re at the professional, college, or high school level, but what about the approximately 3.5 million children who are playing below the high school level? How dangerous is the game for them?
While an 8-year-old doesn’t match a 350 pound linebacker for sheer force in a hit, you’d be surprised to find that they can still do some damage.
A researcher out of Virginia Tech, Stefan Duma, conducted a study on 6-to 8-year-old youth football players in an attempt to understand the impact of the game on the health of the children. Part of the focus of his research is on football helmets and player safety. He fitted helmets with special sensors to measure the hits the children were receiving.
Over the course of a season, each player gets just over 100 impacts, most of which are no worse than a bad pillow fight. But several of the hits registered at over 80g, which is considered a bad hit if you’re in college, much less if you’re 6! One hit was over 100g, which would set off concussion alarms if you were in a college game.
It is unclear whether these kinds of hits are more or less dangerous for children than they are for adults. Children generally heal much more quickly than adults do, but their brains are still in the developmental process. The good news is that this research is going into finding ways of protecting children who are playing youth football.