Football, "America's Game", is one of the most popular sports in the U.S. and is played by more than 1 million high school athletes and 60,000 collegiate athletes. According to a study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, football has nearly twice the injury rate as the next most popular sport, basketball.
This study has found that four out of every 1,000 high school football exposures resulted in an injury compared with eight out of every 1,000 collegiate football exposures. However, high school football players suffered a greater proportion of serious, season-ending injuries like broken bones and concussions, which accounted for about 10% of all injuries among high school players. According to a study published by the Mayo Clinic, researches states that the risk of injury for an eighth-grade player was 4 times greater than the risk of injury for a fourth-grade player.
Statistical Breakdown of Football Injuries
- Linebackers and wide receivers were the positions most likely to suffer season-ending injuries among high school players.
- Among college football players, offensive linemen suffered the most injuries, but the running back position had the greatest proportion of injuries for any one position.
- The most common injuries among both high school and college football players were ligament sprains.
- The lower leg, ankle, and foot were the most commonly injured body parts playing football.
In another study, researchers at the Center for Injury Biomechanics found that although youth league players have fewer and lower-magnitude head impacts than high school and college players, high-magnitude hits do occur, and most happen in practice.There are many things to consider in preventing youth football injuries and your role as a coach or a parents is vital in keeping the game and practice arena safe for all children. Check out these helpful tips below.
Protective equipment is one of the most important factors in minimizing the risk of injury in youth football. Youth football leagues recommend the following items for each player: helmet; mouth guard; shoulder pads; athletic supporters for males; chest/rib pads; forearm, elbow, and thigh pads; shin guards; proper shoes; sunscreen; and water. The equipment provided should be safe, properly fitted, in good repair, and inspected regularly. Equipment that is damaged should be discarded.
Peak physical performance can only be achieved by an athlete who is in top physical condition. Lack of physical fitness impairs the performance of an athlete and coaches should know the physical condition of their athletes and should arrange practice schedules accordingly. Supervised preseason, in-season, and out-of-season conditioning programs should be available to all athletes. A person who is educated in the conditioning of the adolescent athlete should design and monitor these programs utilizing up-to-date, scientifically sound advice. Cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility exercises that address the specific conditioning needs of the football player are essential to injury prevention. Conditioning also involves mental preparation, as well as developing the discipline to practice regularly, eat properly, and maintain good sleeping habits.
When playing or practicing in hot weather, players must acclimatize to the heat. It is essential that this be done gradually. A player can expect to be 80 percent acclimatized within 7-10 days with the proper conditioning program. Final stages of acclimatization to heat are marked by increased sweating and reduced salt concentration in the sweat. You can notice these changes by simply monitoring the amount of white reside left on the clothes, headband or other training gear from the sweat after the workout.
A proper warm-up is an integral part of a good conditioning regimen and should precede any
strenuous physical activity. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) recommends a minimum 15-minute warm-up period before any game or practice and a cool-down period afterward. Athletes should warm up for five minutes during any prolonged breaks. Dynamic active stretching can increase the blood supply to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and makes them more flexible. A stretching routine should include all of the major muscle groups of the body, and customized to rehearse sport-specific movements to help prepare for the demands of the game.
The most important safeguard to the health of the athlete is the intake of water. What is lost through sweat must be replaced. Make sure athletes drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after practices and games in order to stay hydrated and avoid overheating. Water must
be on the field and readily available. It is recommended that a minimum 10-minute water break be scheduled for every half hour of heavy exercise in the heat. Athletes should rest in a shaded area during the break. Dehydration of even as little as 1-2 percent of an athlete’s body weight can hinder performance. More than 3 percent puts the athlete at risk for heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke. One precautionary measure is to advise athletes to drink 2-3 cups of water for every pound lost during activity. Their body weight should be back to normal
before the next workout. Have athletes pay attention to the amount and color in their urine. They should excrete a large volume that is nearly colorless, whereas small amounts or dark colored urine can indicate dehydration. Sports drinks are vital when exercising in hot, humid climates to limit energy loss, staying hydrated and help replace the electrolytes lost by the body during physical activity.