BREAKING NEWS : Shooting at Ossian manufacturing company leaves at least 1 injured Full Story

Growing up in football: a new study on youth helmets

Most football players in America are younger than high-school age. But there’s very little data track...

Posted: Nov 22, 2018 1:04 AM
Updated: Nov 22, 2018 1:04 AM

Most football players in America are younger than high-school age. But there’s very little data tracking exactly how children get hit on the field.

Focusing only on pre-high school aged players, the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab will publish what they call the first-ever ratings showing how well youth football helmets protect against head injuries. The report is due in early 2019 and is based on data collected over the past seven years.

Steve Rowson, associate professor of biochemical engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, said helmets sold for children are virtually identical to ones designed for older players.

“There’s practically no difference between them and it’s not because there’s no effort to do that, it’s because the data doesn’t exist to suggest how they should be different. We’re collecting that data now, and we’re putting processes in place to create a youth-specific helmet,” Rowson said.

Rowson said kids hit their heads less hard, but they also get injured more easily. He said it takes 25 percent less force for a child to get a concussion, compared to an adult.

Rowson’s team has previously done similar studies to rate helmets for varsity football players, cyclists and hockey players; and headgear for soccer players.

For the current project, six teams of middle-school-aged football players across the country are wearing helmets with sensors.

“What we want the sensors to do is remain in contact with the head when they get hit. We're measuring how the head moves, not how the helmet moves,” Rowson said.

Engineers then look at the data from the sensors to learn how the athlete is hit, how hard, and where. They recreate the same type of impact in the lab with a dummy, wearing the various types of helmets available on the market. They measure how the dummy head reacts, to determine each helmet’s one-through-five star rating.

While manufacturers use the results to improve their helmets, Rowson said the team does not accept any funding from equipment manufacturers. Instead, this study on youth helmets is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Thomas Boyd, 11, is one of the kids participating in the project. His helmet is outfitted with accelerometers, and members of Rowson’s team tracks collision data in real-time, from the football stands.

Boyd’s mother, Angelica Mendoza, said when he decided he wanted to play tackle football, “I got nervous. I love watching him play but that’s my baby boy. I don’t want him to get hurt.”

At this age, boys are in various stages of development. Mendoza said she gets especially nervous when her son plays against boys much larger in size.

Among the assistant coaches are Kendrick Gholston and Kevin Jones, who both played in college and in the National Football League. They said the conversation about how to protect oneself from concussions has completely changed over the last few years.

Gholston said when they sustained hits while playing in the NFL, they were given smelling salts.

“You break the sticks and it smells like ammonia, and it like, gives you a kick back and brings you back a little bit,” Gholston said.

Gholston said if the game is going to survive, coaches must teach a new generation of athletes to tackle differently.

“Most of them won't play professional, so you don't want a game that they're playing in middle school or high school deter them from the rest of their lives,” Gholston said.

But he and Jones agree that improving helmets can help.

Rowson said the results of the study will be useful beyond the area of football.

“Not only can studying these youth football players inform better football helmet design, but we also use these data to design safer cars because if we know the impact forces associated with injury that can be translated to other industries like automotive design where you can prevent brain injuries and crashes better in kids because these data simply don’t exist,” he said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1005797

Reported Deaths: 16449
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1353572119
Lake663011164
Allen57820801
Hamilton46296464
St. Joseph44311613
Elkhart35888509
Vanderburgh32214480
Tippecanoe27898258
Johnson25056445
Hendricks23854359
Porter22890365
Madison18724409
Clark18540252
Vigo17449303
Monroe15242199
LaPorte15124250
Delaware15043261
Howard14719289
Kosciusko12285147
Hancock11709175
Bartholomew11602180
Warrick11287189
Floyd11082215
Wayne10965253
Grant10051220
Morgan9457176
Boone8913116
Dubois8263131
Dearborn820893
Henry8200152
Noble8017106
Marshall7916135
Cass7528121
Lawrence7447171
Shelby7176119
Jackson697289
Gibson6584115
Harrison647591
Knox6418106
Huntington6385100
DeKalb630699
Montgomery6252110
Miami592298
Putnam580078
Clinton574971
Whitley564255
Steuben560676
Wabash5324104
Jasper529879
Jefferson510297
Ripley499886
Adams481576
Daviess4670114
Scott438574
Greene424496
Wells423088
Clay422060
White418164
Decatur4164102
Fayette406187
Jennings386661
Posey376644
LaGrange357678
Washington357651
Randolph344499
Spencer339543
Fountain334760
Sullivan328652
Starke316470
Owen314170
Fulton309467
Orange293564
Jay284145
Franklin265443
Perry265352
Rush261332
Carroll261133
Vermillion257754
Parke231126
Pike228843
Tipton227559
Blackford192642
Pulaski183457
Crawford159223
Newton157848
Benton150217
Brown146147
Martin138219
Switzerland134911
Warren121016
Union107016
Ohio84513
Unassigned0540

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1511760

Reported Deaths: 23616
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1636861666
Cuyahoga1457252442
Hamilton1050421416
Montgomery737101254
Summit614971105
Lucas56058912
Butler51383711
Stark464421056
Lorain35443584
Warren32687373
Mahoning30598675
Clermont28106326
Lake26907443
Delaware24114162
Licking23820287
Trumbull22742556
Fairfield22309246
Greene22212320
Medina21941311
Clark19757351
Richland18500285
Portage17857250
Wood17394221
Allen15905269
Miami15487299
Muskingum14737185
Columbiana13940269
Wayne13722265
Tuscarawas12643304
Marion11906175
Scioto11432161
Pickaway11346141
Erie10811181
Ross10532198
Lawrence9725153
Ashtabula9658200
Hancock9649150
Belmont9262206
Geauga8906157
Jefferson8531197
Huron8338141
Union816557
Washington8066138
Sandusky7790148
Athens773676
Knox7679141
Darke7618155
Seneca7306144
Ashland6917126
Auglaize678097
Shelby6493113
Brown633387
Crawford6245130
Defiance6162103
Mercer612893
Fulton599296
Highland596899
Madison592176
Guernsey583468
Logan582795
Clinton581191
Preble5692122
Putnam5301108
Williams526185
Perry516563
Champaign510372
Jackson506571
Ottawa484086
Coshocton478783
Morrow456656
Pike432763
Fayette427461
Hardin416678
Gallia416266
Adams415392
Van Wert369579
Henry362571
Holmes3619123
Hocking355579
Wyandot322261
Carroll300659
Paulding279147
Meigs263350
Monroe214854
Noble198946
Morgan193232
Harrison180143
Vinton165125
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 44°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 46°
Huntington
Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 44°
Decatur
Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 44°
Van Wert
Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 44°
It's a chilly end to the work week with highs struggling to warm into the middle 50s.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events