Research shows the accumulation of routine blows to the head can do as much brain harm as one spectacular knockout hit—which is especially dangerous for the young, whose brain cases are not finished developing. “Compared to adults, younger persons are at increased risk for traumatic brain injuries, with increased severity,” the Centers for Disease Control has said.
If you think little guys don’t hit hard enough to hurt each other’s heads, think again. Virginia Tech researcher Stefan Duma put accelerometers into the helmets of the Auburn Eagles, a youth team—ages 7 and 8—in a town near campus. He found the typical player sustained 107 head impacts per season, most in practice. (Audiences see games; the majority of hits occur during drills and scrimmages.) Acceleration for the median hit equated to 15 times the force of gravity. Duma’s tykes recorded 38 impacts of at least 40 “gees” and six impacts of 80 times the force of gravity, which is 95th percentile for NCAA football contact.
In a society increasingly education-based, having millions of boys smashing each other’s heads from a very young age on—wearing helmets that were designed for adults and weigh more than helmets designed for children would—just cannot be good.