Understanding the Risks of Tackling in Youth Football

2016-2019
Prepared for
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
football game

Using innovative mouth guard sensor technology, Mathematica is conducting a rigorous evaluation over 27 months to measure head impacts in more than 40 youth football teams. We will examine how head impacts and reported concussion rates vary by tackling technique, player age, level of play, and contact (tackle) versus noncontact (flag football) programs. We will also examine an alternative tackling technique known as shoulder-style tackling to assess its potential for reducing head impacts and concussions.

Project activities will include:

  • Gathering data on the cumulative number of head impacts, the force of the impacts, and the reported concussions incurred by young football players over the course of a football season
  • Assessing how head impacts and reported concussions vary in tackle and flag football programs and for players of different skill levels and ages
  • Investigating the effect of shoulder-style tackling on head impacts that occur over the course of a football season and whether the effect differs by player age and skill level
  • Analyzing coaches’ perceptions of the risks and benefits of alternative rules, practices, policies, and player or coaching behaviors on the potential for player injury
  • Examining the experiences of coaches who implement shoulder-style tackling

The findings from this study will provide insights into potential strategies for reducing the risks of tackling in youth football.