UW researchers team up with youth football program to study concussion risk

UW Medicine researchers are teaming up with the Northwest Junior Football League to study youth concussions.

The study by UW Medicine's Sports Health and Safety Institute and Seattle Children's Research Institute will study players ages 6-14.

"What we are doing is enrolling kids at the beginning of the season and collecting some baseline information on them and then we provide athletic trainers to attend all the games these youth have and identify those kids who are injured and evaluate them for concussions," said Dr. Fred Rivara of UW Medicine, Seattle Children's Research Institute. "Trying to understand what are the incidents of concussions in youth that age, as well as how long do they last, how long does it take to recover, what are the risk factors for getting a concussion to begin with what are their long-term consequences."

The goal of the study is to measure what proportion of grade school and middle school football players get concussions. Researchers will record the effects of concussions suffered by players and also look at what factors influence recovery and re-injury in players.

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Athletic trainers from Seattle Children's Research Institute will be at all games this fall to assess players.

"We feel very fortunate to be a part of the concussion study with UW Medicine and Children's Hospital" said Rob Laris, safety director for Northwest Junior Football League and board member at Eastside Crusader Junior Football. "There doesn't seem to be a lot out there about concussions right now and some of it that is is kind of hysteria and a little bit out of line, so we want to try to get to the truth and to get to more concrete information about youth concussions specifically."

The trainers will treat and record concussions and provide information to parents and coaches.

The longitudinal study began in 2016 and evaluated 700 players.

Of the players, 5.9 percent, or about 41 players, were determined to have suffered concussions, according to UW researchers.

The study will also measure how long it takes for children to recover and return to school after a head injury.

The hope is to give parents real information about concussion risk.

"When something happens during a game, someone gets injured, if there is a concussion, there's a professional on-site that can make a professional decision about the safety of your kid versus a coach having to make a decision. It's nice to have someone like that," said Eastside Crusaders Junior Football coach Jay Prochaska.