Study finds youth football players take college-level hits

BLACKSBURG, VA (WWBT) - Pee wee football players may be taking hits to the head that are similar in intensity to those taken by an elite college player, according to a new study out of Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech researcher Stefan Duma placed instrumented helmets on 7 to 8 year old football players in Montgomery County, Virginia. He collected data on more than 750 hits to the head over the course of a season. The highest impact measured was at 100 G's, 100 times the force of gravity, that's concussion territory. And most of those higher impacts happened in practice or before games.

Duma's been studying concussions in athletes for years now. NBC12 visited him at his Blacksburg lab last fall right after he created the country's first ever football helmet rating system.

Duma says this time around, even he was surprised by the results.

"When you look at what we can do for the future, there's really a quick fix here to make the game a lot better and a lot safer," said Duma.

Chris Slusher is the athletic supervisor for the players Duma studied. He says because of this research those hard hitting drills in practice will have to go.

"Focus more on the technique, the head to head blow, that's something we really need to take out of practice," said Slusher.

Duma says he was initially worried the sensors in the kids helmets would not work because they only pick up impacts of 10 G's or higher. He quickly found out that wasn't a problem - these kids are hitting much harder than that.

Duma plans to published the study this spring, at that time other scientists working in this field will get a chance to review his work.

You can watch a 14-minute documentary on the Virginia Tech study here.

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