Football players are subjected to repetitive impacts that may lead to brain injury and neurologic dysfunction. Knowledge about head impact exposure (HIE) and consequent neurologic function among youth football players is limited. Purpose: This study aimed to measure and characterize HIE of youth football players throughout one season and explore associations between HIE and changes in selected clinical measures of neurologic function. Methods: Twenty-two youth football players (11-13 yr) wore helmets outfitted with a head impact telemetry (HIT) system to quantify head impact frequency, magnitude, duration, and location. Impact data were collected for each practice (27) and game (9) in a single season. Selected clinical measures of balance, oculomotor performance, reaction time, and self-reported symptoms were assessed before and after the season. Results: The median individual head impacts per practice, per game, and throughout the entire season were 9, 12, and 252, respectively. Approximately 50% of all head impacts (6183) had a linear acceleration between 10g and 20g, but nearly 2% were greater than 80g. Overall, the head impact frequency distributions in this study population were similar in magnitude and location as in high school and collegiate football, but total impact frequency was lower. Individual changes in neurologic function were not associated with cumulative HIE. Conclusion: This study provides a novel examination of HIE and associations with short-term neurologic function in youth football and notably contributes to the limited HIE data currently available for this population. Whereas youth football players can experience remarkably similar head impact forces as high school players, cumulative subconcussive HIE throughout one youth football season may not be detrimental to short-term clinical measures of neurologic function.
- Injury risk
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation