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Dr. Anthony Kontos, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center – Youth Sports and Head Injuries

In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Anthony Kontos of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reveals when athletes playing youth sports are most likely to receive a concussion.

Anthony Kontos is Assistant Research Director for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. His research into the psychological, neurocognitive, and neuro-motor aspects of sports-related concussions has been widely published in a number of peer-reviewed journals. He holds a Ph.D. in kinesiology and sports psychology from Michigan State University.

About Dr. Kontos

Dr. Anthony Kontos – Youth Sports and Head Injuries

In this study my colleagues and I at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center investigated the risk of concussion in youth football players aged 8-12. This is the first published study to look at concussion in this age group. In our study, we looked at the number of times players participated in games and practices- or exposures as they are called; as well as the number of medically diagnosed concussions that occurred during one youth football season.

Our sample included 468 youth football players from teams in Pennsylvania. During the study a total of 20 concussions occurred. The majority of these injuries involved helmet-to-helmet contact, and 90% of them occurred in games. We found that practices were relatively concussion-free – with only .24/1,000 exposures. However, players were 26x more likely to suffer a concussion in a game than in practice. This finding suggests that limiting contact practices in youth football may not only have little effect on reducing concussions, but may actually increase the incidence of concussions in games due to reduced time learning proper tackling technique in the safer environment of practices.

Age also played a role in our study. Players aged 11-12 were nearly 3x more likely to have a concussion than those aged 8-10. Additionally, players in skilled positions such as quarterback, running back and linebacker accounted for 95 percent of all concussions. In conclusion, we believe that youth football- and practice in particular- is generally safe with regard to concussion. However, it is important that empirically based efforts to reduce concussion in youth football are implemented, such as changes to rules, equipment changes and improved tackling technique.

Production support for the Academic Minute comes from Newman’s Own, giving all profits to charity and pursuing the common good for over 30 years, and from Mount Holyoke College.

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