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Wake Forest helmet study shows head hits during youth football practice

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have spent the last four years studying brain activity in youth football players.

The goal was to learn how many hits to the head come during football practices and games.

The data for the study was collected from the helmets of players in Forsyth County.

Researchers placed sensors in more than 100 players helmets ages 9 to 13.

"Six sensors go up against the head and they measure head acceleration and it's mounted in the helmet," said Joel Stitzel a professor with Wake Forest.

When those sensors record a hit they send data to a computer system that tells them where on the head it occurred and how hard.

The players were divided into three categories: Level A was players 11 and under, Level B was 12 and under, and Level C 13 and under.

After studying more than 40,000 head impacts for those age groups researchers found a difference.

"We are seeing that the younger age groups, like the 9, 10 and 11-years-old they are seeing a higher proportion of higher magnitude hits, the higher severity hits in practice," said Wake Forest researcher Mireille Kelly."

The older age groups saw more hits to the head in games. Researchers also found that for all age groups the front of the helmet received the most blows. Scientists hope this data helps to make the game safer.

"Our objective isn't to say football is bad and we shouldn't do it anymore, it's to make it as safe as possible," said Stitzel.

The study was published in the June issue of the Journal of Neurotrauma.