Children are NOT Miniature Adults When It Comes to Brain Injury

Posted By: Tony Baratta | February 13th, 2020

Children are Not Miniature Adults when it comes to Brain Injury[1]

Children between ages 9 and 14 make up the largest group of football players in the country, larger in total numbers than high school, college and professional players.  Until a recent study by the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab, the research regarding brain injuries caused on football fields largely focused on players in high school, college and pro ranks.

The recent Virginia Tech study, released in the January issue of the Annals of Biomechanical Engineering has corroborated the long held anecdotal belief that youth football players are at greater risk for concussion related injuries than older players.

It has been theorized that the anatomical differences between adults and children accounted for the increased risk of injury to children in football games despite the fact that the head accelerations leading to concussion in youth football are lower than those that typically cause injury to older players.

These anatomical differences include:

  • The fatty myelin sheaths that help protect brain cells have not fully developed in children.
  • Children usually have heads which are bigger relative to their bodies and less neck musculature to help support the head upon an impact.

The study followed youth football teams in Virginia, North Carolina and Rhode Island.  More than 100 players on 6 teams wore helmets containing sensors to measure linear and rotational forces during 4 seasons worth of practices and games.

Thousands of impacts were analyzed.  Concussions were diagnosed by clinicians at the site of the events and neuropsychological testing was performed of the kids before and after every season to measure the potential cognitive changes.

The study concluded that youth players are on average more susceptible to concussion at lower levels of acceleration than high school and college players are.  For players in high school and college and the pro ranks, to cause a concussion requires the head to be accelerated in a linear fashion at 102 g’s while average impact causing concussion to children was only 62 g’s.  A similar mathematical difference was found with rotational acceleration.

What is a g??

We use “G force” to measure acceleration due to gravity.  Acceleration is the rate of change in velocity with time.

  • At 0 g – we feel weightless, like we are floating in space
  • At 1 g – everything feels normal
  • At 2 g – we feel twice as heavy.
  • A fun roller coaster ride might exert 3-4 g’s of acceleration for brief moments
  • Fighter pilots can experience accelerations up to 8 g for brief periods of time
  • 60 g’s of acceleration is equivalent to what the human body feels in a car crash at 30 mph with an air bag deployment.

So, when a child is involved in a fall, a car crash or a sports collision, a child’s brain is affected at much lower levels of force that what has been found in adults.

[1] Steve Rowson is an associate professor of biomechanical engineering and mechanics and the director of the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab.  He was quoted in an article authored by Eleanor Nelson of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University as saying, “Children aren’t just scaled-down adults: Differences in anatomy and physiology, like head-neck proportions and brain development, contribute to differences in tolerance to head impact.”

About the Author

Anthony J. Baratta (Tony) is a trial attorney. He has tried more than 50 cases to Juries in State and Federal Courts and has litigated thousands of personal injury and medical malpractice cases in his 30-year career. Tony is the founding partner of Baratta, Russell, & Baratta and an active board member of the Pennsylvania Brain Injury Association (BPIA). Tony is also on the board for the Philadelphia VIP and performs pro bono work for the Laurel House, a non-profit for victims of domestic abuse. In addition, Tony is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for trial attorneys, voted one of Philadelphia’s Super Lawyers for the past 14 years, and a 2018 recipient of the First Judicial District Pro Bono Award for the Civil Trial Division.

Tell us About Your Problem Our Attorneys are Ready to Help

  • Please be advised that submitting this information does not create an attorney client relationship and the information you share may not be confidential due to its transmission in this manner.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We are Your Center City Law Firm Right Outside the City

We are “Center City” lawyers without the hassle of Center City. Located right outside the city of Philadelphia in Huntingdon Valley, PA, our office is accessible from all directions. We are wheel chair accessible with free parking and an elevator.

Baratta, Russell & Baratta

Huntingdon Valley
3500 Reading Way
Huntingdon Valley, PA 19006

1000 N. Providence Rd.
Media, PA 19063


Get Directions

Phone: 215-914-2222
Fax: 215-914-2118