College Football Study: Players Need More Protection from Head Injury

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (NEWSPLEX) -- Practice makes perfect, but could it also be dangerous? A group of University of Virginia researchers think so, especially when it comes to college football.

Currently, the NCAA does not regulate full-contact football practices, saying there's insufficient data on head impacts. However, after conducting a football season's worth of studies on UVa's own players, UVa researchers say they have proof more regulations are needed to protect players from frequent, or hard, hits during practice.

"We need to protect the athletes as they come up to protect the sport as a whole," said neuroscience doctoral candidate Bryson Reynolds.

Reynolds was part of a team of researchers that studied the number and severity of subconcussions UVa players receive in a season.

"Repetitive impacts that a lot of theses athletes experience don't produce immediate symptoms of a concussion, but they've recently been impacted as having some possible long term effects," Reynolds said.

Reynolds and his team used a device to measure how often and how hard 16 players' heads were hit during the season. The players were all given an MRI before and after the study.

"We found clear differences between these different practice types and games, which surprisingly hadn't been show in the other data," Reynolds said. "Helmet only receives the least impact, and then shell a little more than that, and then full pad a little more than that, and then games a little more than that."

Researcher found the UVa players had 59 contact practices per year, which is more than triple the number of contact practices an NFL player would see per year.

"NFLPA, the NFL Player's Association, pushed for this restriction to be included where there is only 14 contact practices per year. But in the NCAA the players don't have a role in the system," Reynolds said.

Reynolds says it's time the NCAA take a page out of the NFL's books to protect the players, and the sport.

He said, "If these different football leagues, NFL, NCAA, high school league and below, if we don't adapt to these changes to protect players, than the sport won't last very long."

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