Effect of Coach Feedback and Awareness of Head Impact Exposure on Practice Structure in Youth Football

J Neurotrauma. 2021 May 15;38(10):1389-1398. doi: 10.1089/neu.2020.7224. Epub 2021 Mar 1.


With the concern of concussion risk and repetitive head impacts in youth football, organizations have adopted rules that limit contact during practice. However, rule changes are not ubiquitous among organizations and are challenging to monitor and enforce. Ultimately, football practice activities are determined by coaches, but it is unknown whether providing objective data to coaches relating activities to their athletes' head impact exposure (HIE) would alter practice structure or help reduce HIE. This study evaluated the effect of coach awareness of HIE on practice structure over time. Head impact data from three intervention (56 players) and three control (38 players) teams were collected over two youth football seasons. Athletes were instrumented with the Head Impact Telemetry (HIT) System and time-synchronized video was recorded for practices and games. Impact frequencies and head accelerations were compiled into weekly HIE practice and game reports and shared with the head coach of each intervention team. Time per drill, impact rate, and impact magnitude were compared across three time frames (pre-season, mid-season, and late-season) using generalized linear models. Control teams had higher impact rates than intervention teams in all drills across time frames. Among all teams, 95th percentile linear and rotational accelerations were highest during mid-season. Among intervention teams, more time was spent on scrimmage and skill development from pre-season to late-season, with less time spent on tackling. This study suggests that receiving objective data informing HIE in practice may contribute to changes in practice structure and help inform intervention efforts to improve head impact safety in football.

Keywords: football; head impacts; injury; intervention; pediatric.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletes
  • Awareness
  • Brain Concussion / prevention & control*
  • Child
  • Football / injuries*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Knowledge of Results, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Mentoring / methods*