Hit Count Initiative Aims to Protect Young Athletes' Brains

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • It’s the start of a new school year and with that comes athletic teams vying to be the best. Where I live in Texas, football is king, although I know friends who participate in soccer and rugby. In addition, my soon-to-be 15-year-old neighbor and his friends love to wrestle. You can feel the excitement building concerning the upcoming matches – and also feel the worry emerge among parents regarding the possibility of concussions.


    As a part of a story about concussions caused by football, the Houston Chronicle mentioned the creation of the Sports Legacy Institute (SLI) Hit Count Initiative. The initiative is modeled after the “Pitch Count” that is used in youth baseball. According to the SLI, the Hit Count Initiative will include SLI’s Every Hit Counts, Hits Count so Count Hits, Preventing Concussions One Hit at a Time, and Count Every Hit Because Every Hit Counts programs.

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    The Hit Count Initiative, which is designed for youth contact sports, comes in the wake of the diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in a 17-year-old high school football player. According to Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain that is found in athletes and others who have a history of repetitive brain trauma, including concussions that are symptomatic and asymptomatic subconcussive blows to the head.  The trauma of the brain causes progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of tau, which is an abnormal protein that also is found in Alzheimer’s disease. Changes in the brain can start as early as months after the blow or can show up decades after the last brain trauma. People who have CTE often experience memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, issues with impulse control, aggression, depression and dementia.


    SLI points out that more than 20 former National Football League players have had the same pathology, as well as college football players, professional hockey players, boxers, professional wrestlers, a soccer player and non-athletes who received extraordinary brain trauma.


    “If we go to such great lengths to protect the elbows of baseball players then heck, don’t you think we ought to set limits to the number of times we allow a child to be hit in the head in sports?” Dr. Robert Cantu, clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine and past president of the American College of Sports Medicine, said in a press release. “We do not claim ownership of this idea. A Hit Count has been proposed by prominent researchers, many of whom we are grateful to for providing the research that has revealed, for example, that high school football players have been recorded taking 197 hits to the head exceeding 15g in a game and 2,235in a season.  Our goal is to translate this bold idea into policy aimed at protecting children. In some sports, there is simply too much unregulated and unnecessary brain trauma.”


    SLI points out that football, soccer and rugby are the primary sports in which athletes regularly receive sub-concussive brain trauma. In fact, these three sports resulted in 1,000 of these brain injuries in a season.


  • SLI has been working with medical experts, youth sports organizations, industry members and other stakeholders to try to have Hit Counts adopted by youth sports organization this year. However, if your child is involved in one of these sports and the coach isn’t aware of this initiative, I’d encourage you to share this information.

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    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:


    Barron, D. (2013). Here’s to clearer heads prevailing. Houston Chronicle.


    Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. (nd). What is CTE?


    Sports Legacy Institute. (2013). Sports legacy institute announces bold Hit Count Initiative to protect youth athletes through regulating brain trauma exposure.

Published On: August 20, 2013