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Middle School Football Doesn't Cause Short-Term Brain Damage, Study Finds

Middle School Football Doesn't Cause Short-Term Brain Damage, Study Finds

According to new research published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, children who play football in middle school do not have any lasting injuries from repeated tackles or hits to the head.

One doctor with expertise in pediatric brain injuries, however, "expressed some concerns about the study, saying its small size made it hard to draw definitive conclusions," said an article on HealthDay.com.

The study, the article said, "included 22 children, ages 11 to 13, who played a season of football. The season comprised 27 practices and nine games.During that time, more than 6,000 'head impacts' were recorded. They were similar in force and location to those experienced by high school and college players, but happened less often, the researchers found."

"The primary difference between head impacts experienced by middle school and high school football players is the number of impacts, not the force of the impacts," said lead researcher Thayne Munce, associate director of the Sanford Sports Science Institute in Sioux Falls, S.D. in the article.

According to Munce, "a season of football did not seem to clinically impair the brain function of middle school football players, even among those who got hit in the head harder and more often."

"These findings are encouraging for youth football players and their parents, though the long-term effects of youth football participation on brain health are still unknown," he said.

The article said that for the study, "players wore sensors in their helmets that measured the frequency of hits to the head, their location and force. In addition, the kids were screened before and after the season for factors such as balance, reading speed, reaction time and self-reported symptoms."

"The average number of head hits per practice was nine," the researchers noted in the article. "During games, the number of head hits was 12, according to the study. Over a season, that worked out to approximately 250 hits to the head. One child suffered a concussion during the study. He wasn't cleared to play again until the 27th day after his concussion, according to the study."

In the article, Dr. John Kuluz, director of traumatic brain injury and neurorehabilitation at Miami Children's Hospital, called it "alarming that kids are being hit with high impacts. The idea that younger kids don't hit as hard is clearly not true."

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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