The findings of a local study of the effects of playing football for middle school aged children is getting a worldwide audience.

A Sanford Health pilot study “Effects of Youth Football on Select Clinical Measures of Neurologic Function” has been published in the Journal of Child Neurology.

The study's lead researcher, Thayne Munce, PhD, associate director of the National Institute for Athletic Health & Performance at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, told me that despite all of the studies that have been done on head injuries at the NFL level, little is known about how those same injuries impact younger players:

The study involved 10 youth football players in Sioux Falls, ages 12 to 14, examined twice over a 12-week period; once before the season started and once the season was complete. Players were tested on balance, memory, reaction time and reading speed:

The results of the study?

While the 12 week period is helpful is measuring potential neurological changes in young players, Munce says this study is just the beginning of what will be an ongoing process that will follow players for years down the road to gauge any long term effects might come from participating in football:

Since the competition of that study, researchers at the National Institute for Athletic Health & Performance in Sioux Falls have started tracking youth football players using accelerometers placed inside of helmets. Those devices track the number of hits, magnitude of hits and location of hits to the players’ heads during practices and games, in an effort to gain a better understanding of the risk of brain injury in youth football and to improve player safety.

Munce says results of those tests should be published before the end of the year.

As useful as some of the information in the completed study has been, Munce acknowledges that the issue of whether football is safe is far from resolved: