Football practice causing more head injuries than actual games, research shows

SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – New research is helping to pinpoint when and why younger football players get head injuries.

You may be surprised to learn: it found kids are more likely to get hurt during practice than in an actual game.

Local football experts were asked what’s being done to protect our kids and whether changes are needed.

When Chris Miller first started playing football decades ago, a drill that some call bull in the ring was pretty standard. It’s where a player in the center is tackled repeatedly by teamates one at a time.

“And sometimes you never did make it around and that guy hits you in the back,” says Spartanburg High School Coach Chris Miller, “So you know, those are different things, you know that old tough stuff that we used to do, seems like it’s crazy now.”

Not surprisingly a new study out of Virginia Tech found that play to be among the most likely to cause a concussion. The study tracked players ages nine to 11 with special helmets that measure head acceleration, and also discovered they were more likely to be injured in practice than at a game.

Vernon Smith with the Marcus Lattimore Foundation says one problem is, many youth coaches are still teaching old-school methods.

“I think that is one big change that we can make, trying to provide athletic trainers in these youth leagues to help kind of curb some of the injuries and the concussions,” said Smith.

“Well I think we need to make the changes in how we teach the tackle, obviously,” says Spartanburg High School Athletic Director Todd Staley, “The numbers speak for themselves.”

In fact, Spartanburg High just implemented safer USA Football training methods. The “heads-up” approach focuses on shoulder impact instead of the helmet.

Years ago there were a lot more live action drills during practice, that’s where players were taken to the ground. Nowadays the State of South Carolina limits that to 90 minutes per week.

As a coach now, Miller hopes the safety changes will reverse a trend of lower football enrollment, and keep the sport thriving, “This game of football has done so much for me in my life and I want it to continue and I want it to be safe for our kids.”

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