Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW research yield conflicting conclusions on football safety

Two separate studies look at rate and cause of injuries

Two separate studies conducted at University of Wisconsin have resulted in varying opinions about the safety of football at the high school level and beyond.

While the rules and technology meant to protect football players are constantly changing, recent studies debate whether they’ve changed the awareness or prevention of injuries.

Tim McGuine, a UW Health Sports Medicine Center manager, gathered three years worth of data about concussions among high school football players. 


McGuine’s study analyzed risk factors including the age of the helmets, weight and height of the football players and whether the football player is on varsity or not, he said.

A change in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association rules in 2014 limited the amount of contact in practice high school football players could have, McGuine said.

Concussions during practice were already low, but declined after the new rule — a fact that surprised McGuine and his co-authors.

Dr. Gregory Landry, UW Health, also conducted a study focused on tackling in youth football, and whether it should be banned.

Landry found tackling should not be banned, citing evidence that delaying tackling for younger football players could cause injury when they are older because they don’t know how to do it properly.

Landry added football needs to get safer at all levels.

“Something has happened since when I played [football] in the ’60s and ’70s,” Landry said. “Gradually as the helmets got better and the technology got better, players started to realize that they could use them as a battering rams.”

The hits NFL players make and take often lead with the head, Landry said. Tackles that lead with the player’s heads have been glorified in NFL. These types of plays have trickled down to younger players who try to imitate their professional models, he explained.

Landry said head first tackles should be discouraged across the board.

McGuine, however, doesn’t see the correlation between issues NFL players face and those of high school players.

McGuine worries there may be an over diagnosing injuries.

Recalling a high school girl’s soccer team, McGuine questioned the amount of concussions diagnosed.

“Forty percent of the girls were diagnosed by their doctors to have concussions,” McGuine said. “If 40 percent of kids are getting concussions then the sport should be banned, but do I believe that they all had concussions? Absolutely not.”

The increase in awareness and scrutiny of football is good, McGuine said, but if football is going to be scrutinized, all sports should be scrutinized just the same.

McGuine said cheerleading was actually the number one cause of neck and head injuries in high school.

For now, in order to understand the actual impact from injuries of concussions, McGuine said a larger study needs to analyze data from thousands of kids — this way researchers may understand what’s truly going on.

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