Player Athleticism Increases Head Impact Exposure in Youth Football

Head shot of Jillian Urban, PhDSpeed, agility and strength are definitely assets on the football field. But when it comes to hits to the head, those talents may actually increase exposure for the young athletes who account for about 70% of this country’s football players.

A study of youth league football players by researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine found that higher vertical jumping ability and faster times in speed and agility drills were generally associated with higher head impact exposure, especially in games as compared to practices.

“Previous studies have shown the severity and number of head impacts increases with the level of play in football, but we have found that there is significant variability in head impact exposure among individuals playing at the same level,” said Jillian E. Urban, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and the study’s senior author.

Stock photo of youth football player in navy jersey and white pants, throwing a football“Differences in position account for some of that variation at the high school and college levels, but less so in youth football. Our objective was to see if there is a relationship in youth football between head impact exposure and physical ability as measured by commonly used drills, and our results suggest there is.”

The study was published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Research Funding
Research reported on was supported by the following grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

Player Athleticism Increases Head Impact Exposure in Youth Football: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke awards R01 NS094410 and R01 NS082453, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences grant KL2 TR001421 and the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.