Objective: To estimate the incidence of injuries in youth football and to assess the relationship between player-related risk factors (age, body size, biological maturity status) and the occurrence of injury in youth football.
Design: Prospective over two seasons.
Setting: Two communities in central Michigan.
Participants: Subjects were 678 youth, 9-14 years of age, who were members of 33 youth football teams in two central Michigan communities in the 2000 and 2001 seasons.
Methods: Certified athletic trainers (ATCs) were on site to record the number of players at all practices and home games (exposures) and injuries as they occurred. A reportable injury (RI) was defined by the criteria used in the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) survey of several high school sports. Estimated injury rates (95% confidence intervals) per athlete exposures (AE) and per number of athletes were calculated for practices and games by grade. Player risk factors included age, height, weight, BMI and estimated maturity status.
Main outcome measure: Estimated injury rates and relative risks of injury during practices and games by grade; logistic regression to evaluate relationships between player-related risk factors and risk of injury.
Results: A total of 259 RIs, 178 in practice and 81 in games, were recorded during the two seasons. Practice injury rates increased with grade level, while game injury rates were similar among fourth through fifth grade and sixth grade players and about twice as high among seventh and eighth grade players. The majority of RIs during the two seasons was minor (64%); the remainder was moderate (18%) and major (13%). Injured fourth through fifth grade players were significantly lighter in weight and had a lower BMI; otherwise, injured and non-injured players within each grade did not differ in age, body size and estimated biological maturity status. Logistic regressions within grade revealed no significant associations between injury and age, height, BMI, and maturity status.
Conclusion: Game injury rates are higher than practice injury rates, and the incidence of injury tends to increase with grade level. Age, height, BMI and maturity status were not related to the risk of injury in youth football players.