Most research on brain injuries in football has been focused on the NFL. or at the college level but a new study by Wake Forest University and Virginia Tech focuses on football players as young as seven.
Researchers followed 19 boys, 7 to 8 years old through two seasons of youth football. They found players average 9 hits to the head per practice and 11 in games. None received a concussion but the amount of force of some of the blows put them at a high risk for one.
"I'm not completely shocked by it," athletic trainer Julie Woolf said. "We see nowadays that kids, younger and younger, are starting to wear helmets and pads."
Woolf is an athletic trainer at Physical Therapy Associates, and the head trainer at Ferris High School.
"When kids watch the NFL they see these players making huge tackles and then what do they do? They want to go out and be just like their heroes on TV," Woolf said.
The study also states practice, not games, make for a higher risk and frequency of hits.
"It's better to miss one game than it is to miss the entire season," said Pat Estes, YMCA Youth Sports Director.
Estes says their league has rules on head injuries and have for more than a decade. Each coach is trained to recognize the signs of concussions.
"We have a power point presentation that we go through with our coaches every season. No matter how many times you've heard it, you're going to hear it again at the next season you coach," Estes said.
The YMCA also limits practice to 90 minutes a day, 3 days a week. Pop Warner Football has similar restrictions.
"As youth sports is growing in popularity, I'm glad to see there is more research going in that direction," Estes said.
The authors of the study say more research needs to be done over an extended period of time, to find out just how dangerous these hits are for our brains.