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JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) – The NFL updated its concussion protocol after several recent head injuries, now the safety spotlight is shining on high school football teams and how student athletes can be better protected on the field.
“A lot of head impacts are occurring during practice, not just the games,” said Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Neurosurgeon, Grady Memorial Hospital.
That’s why a new study published in the Medical Journal Pediatrics suggests changing the way high schoolers practice may help.
The researchers from Indiana University studied three Midwest teams in the 2021 season, using mouth sensors to gauge the impact different plays and drills have on an athlete’s head.
“The numbers kind of astounded me. So, 74 players a season they looked at 7,300 head impacts so it’s close to a 100 impacts per player on average,” said Dr. Gupta.
In just under 86 hours studied, there were 310 head impacts with “air” drills, or drills without contact, compared to more than 3,300 head impacts in 115 hours of “thud” drills where players train at high speeds and restrict contact to above the waist.
“That’s a lot of head impact for these high school players,” said Dr. Gupta. “It’s not just concussions. It’s these sub-concussive or just head impacts of any sort. They accumulate over time.”
Because of that cumulative effect, researchers say minimizing head impacts during drills in practice may help reduce head injuries overall.
“We know now more than ever that some of these chronic changes some of these most concerning changes in the brain can start early,” said Dr. Gupta.
Researchers say most of the head hits were to lineman, after that tight ends were most likely to have head injuries followed by running backs and quarterbacks, according to the study.
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