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Understanding Head Impact in Flag Football

Source: Pixabay and Ty Swartz

While youth flag football is a safer alternative to tackle football, head injuries are still of concern, a new study finds.

The researchers of “Head Impact Biomechanics in Youth Flag Football: A Prospective Cohort Study,” said that up till now data on youth flag football head impact biomechanics has been limited. So, in their study they describe head impact biomechanics outcomes in youth flag football and evaluate the factors related to head impact biomechanics.

They monitored 52 player-seasons among 48 male flag football players across 3 seasons. The average age was 9 years old.

The players wore head impact sensors during both practices and games. The sensors recorded head impact frequencies, peak linear and rotational acceleration as well as estimated impact location.

The impact rates were calculated as 1 impact per 10 player-exposures. Weekly and seasonal cumulative head impact frequencies and magnitudes were also calculated. The study was published online July 15 in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Overall, 429 head impacts from 604 exposures were measured (IR, 7.10; 95% CI, 4.81-10.50). Weekly and seasonal cumulative median head impact frequencies were 1.00 (range, 0-2.63) and 7.50 (range, 0-21.00), respectively.

The locations for the most frequent head impacts were the skull base (n = 96; 22.4%), top of the head (n = 74, 17.2%), and back of the head (n = 66; 15.4%).

The researchers found that the combined event type IRs (impact rates) differed among the 3 seasons (IRR range, 1.45-2.68). Games produced greater IRS (IRR, 1.24; 95% CI, 1.01-1.53) and peak linear acceleration (mean difference, 5.69g; p =.008) than did practices.

The older players, they also found, demonstrated greater combined event-type IRs (IRR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.12-1.90) and increased head impact magnitudes than the younger players. The researchers estimated that every 1-year age increase associated with a 3.78g and 602.81 rad/s2 increase in peak linear and rotational acceleration magnitude (p ≤.005).

“Head IRs and magnitudes varied across seasons, thus highlighting multiple season and cohort data are valuable when providing estimates. Head IRs were relatively low across seasons, while linear and rotational acceleration magnitudes were relatively high,” the researchers wrote.



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Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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