Objective: To determine the risk of injury in youth football games.
Subjects and methods: Nine hundred fifteen players aged 9 to 13 years on 42 teams participated, including 10 teams in each grade from grades 4 through 6 and 6 teams each in grades 7 and 8. The study was conducted in the fall of 1997. Injury incidence, prevalence, and severity were calculated for each grade level and player position. Additional analyses examined the number of injuries according to body weight.
Results: A total of 55 injuries occurred in games during the entire season (overall prevalence, 5.97%). Most injuries were mild, and the most common type was contusion, which occurred in 33 players (60%). Four injuries (7%) were severe enough to prevent players from participating for the rest of the season. All 4 severe injuries were fractures involving the ankle physis. The risk of injury increased as players matured in age and grade level. Injury risk for an eighth-grade player was 4 times greater than the risk of injury to a fourth-grade player. A trend was identified for heavier players to be at increased risk, but no significant correlation was evident between body weight and injury.
Conclusion: Our prospective observational analysis showed that most youth football injuries are mild. Older and heavier players appear to be at higher risk.