Contact-Free Sports Practice Reduces Risk of Athlete Head Injuries

Researchers have published alarming data in recent years about the long-term harm caused by sports-related head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries and concussions.

Some public health officials, coaches and parents question whether young people should play contact sports like football and hockey because of the risk of repetitive head injuries. Other activities are also worrisome: Bicycle crashes and baseball injuries can cause brain damage and cognitive impairments, some temporary, some permanent.

Steven Rowson wants to change how kids practice football. Rowson is a part of a collaborative program by Virginia Tech and Wake Forest University that studies sports injuries, helmet safety and the long-term consequences of impact head trauma.

Rowson published a paper that suggests that youth football teams should reduce tackling and other full contact drills during practice. Less contact in practice means fewer head injuries and repetitive concussions over the course of the season. Of America’s football players, 70 percent are 14 or younger. This is the first study to look at this age group. Earlier research has focused on professional, college and high school athletes.

Rowson recommends that football coaches simply change the way they run practice and spend more time on running and less time on tackling and blocking. In addition, the Virginia Tech/Wake Forest program is working to design better helmets and obtain data about the long-term progress of players who have traumatic brain injury. Stefan Duma, the other chief investigator for the program, puts accelerometers in the helmets of Virginia Tech’s football team and has recorded data on over 150,000 hits to find out how to improve helmets.

The long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries can include coma, lethargy, vertigo, nerve dysfunction, insomnia, memory loss, learning disability, attention issues, impaired judgment and even death. Head impact trauma can damage the developing brains of young football players.

Head injuries and traumatic brain damage are a serious matter and can change a person forever. Families who are struggling with injuries and disabilities caused by the actions or neglect of others should talk with Richmond, VA personal injury attorney about legal steps to help you recover.