Researchers developing first-ever youth football helmet ratings

BLACKSBURG, Virginia (KTRK) -- Most football players in America are younger than high school age.

But there's still very little data tracking how children get hit on the field.

A team of engineers at Virginia Tech are now focusing on this young group as they develop the first-ever ratings for youth football helmets.

While the 10 to 12-year-olds are working hard to make an impact on the field, their impact off the field may last long after game day.

For seven years, Virginia Tech helmet lab engineers have been putting accelerometers inside youth helmets.

"What we want the sensors to do is remain in contact with the head when they get hit," said Steve Rowson, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics.

Rowson says the sensors give them information about the type of hits happening on the field.

They recreate the same motions with dummies wearing different youth helmet models, in hopes of publishing the first-ever ratings for youth football helmets by early 2019.

Six teams of middle school-aged players around the country are wearing the sensors.

"Most of them won't play professional," said Kendrick Gholston, a former NFL player. "So you don't want a game that they're playing in middle school or high school deter them from the rest of their lives."

While the kids play, engineers watch computer screens in the stands.

So far, the study shows kids get hit less hard than varsity players, but it also takes less to cause a concussion.

The ratings coming next year are a key tool for manufacturers to develop better helmets tailored to children.
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