BUFFALO, N.Y— A new study shows certain practice drills are more dangerous for youth football players. It was recently published in the Journal of Neurosurgery. It’s giving more insight into what it and isn’t safe for young players in a sport that many parents are worried to watch their children play.
“When they go to play football you’re on your pins and your needle, but you have to trust that they’re in good hands with the coaches,” Samantha Foster said. She said she knows her son is in good hands. He’s 10-years-old and plays on the JV team for the KAT Raiders. It’s part of the Niagara Erie Youth Sports Association, or NEYSA, run by president Ray Turpin.
“We have a responsibility as a league to protect our kids and protect our parents,” Turpin said.
They do that through research Turpin said they follow USA Football guidelines and are also keeping an eye on new information, like a new study released last month in the Journal of Neurosurgery. It focuses on high-impact drills. Researchers at Virginia Tech identified a drill called the “King of the Circle” that was the most dangerous for football players ages 9 to 11. In the drill, a player rushes from the center of the circle at defenders forming the circle. The study found it had the highest impact rate. Turpin said the drill hasn’t been allowed in their league for about 15 years, and they also take other measures to protect players in practice.
“We’re trying to teach them how to play the game. You don’t have to necessarily go out and beat each other up for 2 hours in order to play the game,” Turpin said.
They’re already put limits on contact. High-impact drills are limited to just 30 minutes for each practice and no more than 120 minutes per week.
They also follow a break down of drills by level of contact. It shows the most intense drills are limited to 30 minutes per practice. The rest of practice is filled in with air bag and control drills, which are less intense. Turpin said those drills teach a player how to play a position without full contact.
“We’re focusing more on the fundamentals for the players rather than going out and just wailing on each other for two hours a day,” Turpin said.
It’s a practice method Dr. Elad Levy agrees is in the best interest of players.
“There’s no reason to have full contact drills in practice because the more you’re hitting your head the more risk you have of concussion,” Dr. Levy said.
Dr. Levy is the professor and chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the University of Buffalo. He also works for the NFL as the trauma and concussion consultant for the Buffalo Bills. He said research has changed the way we look at injuries from high-impact sports.
“Before you’d say ‘I got my bell rung, or I’m a little bit dizzy’ and you’d get right back in the game, but now we know that repeated concussion injury can cause devastating permanent brain injury,” Dr. Levy said.
Dr. Levy said his advice for youth football leagues is to minimize or eliminate full contact in practice. A message Samantha Foster said she’s glad her son’s league heard.
“It makes me feel at ease knowing that they’re not out there hitting every day,” Foster said.