Study Identifies High-Risk Football Player Behaviors, Suggests Guidelines for Safety

A study on football concussion at the high school level conducted by a University of Georgia researcher reports that players sustain more severe head impacts from player-to-player hits than from other kinds of hits. Impact severity was further exacerbated by running longer distances before impact, and by adoption of a 3-point starting stance before a play. Study author Julianne Schmidt, PhD, assistant professor in the UGA College of Education, said that the results support recent guidelines for players to avoid leading with their heads when hitting another player. Schmidt’s research also found that players who ran more than 10 yards before impact sustained much more severe head injuries than those who ran less, supporting earlier findings that have led to a college football change in the kickoff line from the 30- to the 35-yard line. The findings appear in the journal Pediatrics.

The relationship between head impact and concussion risk is not well understood, but it is thought that the safety of the game, and the incidence of minor traumatic brain injury (MTBI), can be improved by reducing or preventing head impact occurrences. As high school players tend to rotate through different positions during their playing experience, Schmidt advises coaches to focus on good tackling techniques that use proper head and body positioning. She further suggests rules changes pertaining to those play positions that combine the 3-point stance with longer distance running, as this combination was shown to carry the highest risk of impact injury.

Read more about the study findings and guideline implications here.

The journal article may be read here.

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