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.
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).
“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.”