- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - A study by a Dakotas-based hospital shows that middle school football players are getting hit just as hard as older kids, but not as often and not enough to cause short-term brain damage.

The Sanford Sports Institute study used in-helmet sensors to measure the force and location of hits to the head for players ages 11 to 13. It focuses on 22 players from the same South Dakota team, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported (http://argusne.ws/13UJhVi ).

“You could see this as, ‘Wow, these middle school kids are getting hit just as hard as high school kids. That’s a bad thing,’” project leader Thayne Munce said. “Or you could say, ‘These middle school kids are getting hit half as much as the high school kids. That’s a good thing.’

“We’re not saying whether it’s good or bad. It’s just interesting.”

The helmets provided real-time results for all nine games and 27 practices. They recorded the gravitational force of 6,000 total hits, which were measured in Gs. Most of the hits were recorded between 10 and 20 Gs. The hardest hit measured was 175 Gs.

By comparison, the highest reading from an Indy Car crash is 214 Gs, and the driver survived.

The project found that the median number of hits taken by a player during the season was 252. That’s about half of what a high school player absorbs. It also found that players showed few ill effects over the course of the season. There was one diagnosed concussion.

Kelly Hefti, whose 14-year-old son Jayke was part of the study, said she’s tried to mind the risks of playing contact sports without being overly protective. The testing helped put her at ease.

“That’s a good thing,” Hefti said of the results. “I don’t know if they’ll be able to track any of these kids from a long-term perspective. But in the short-term it’s reassuring.”

Sanford Health is based in Sioux Falls and Fargo, North Dakota. It has more than 26,000 employees.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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