Tonka Youth Football completes first season with impact monitoring mouth guards

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This week, hundreds of Minnesota prep football players hit the field for the first round of playoffs. Most of those high schoolers started in youth programs – many of which have seen declining numbers in recent years over fears of concussions and head injuries.

In Minnetonka, they’re working to study those potential head injuries to keep youth players safe and reassure parents.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS first told you about the Tonka Youth Football Association’s impact monitoring mouth guards back in March.

RELATED: Minnetonka youth football program approves impact monitoring mouth guards for players

125 Tonka Youth tackle football players in grades 4-8 wore the special mouth guards for the first time this season during practice and games. That season just wrapped up.

Prevent Biometrics, a Minneapolis-based company, made the mouth guards, which contain technology that provide real-time updates on head impacts. They also measure the movement of an athlete’s head, prompting an app notification when there’s a severe hit.

“Most of the data we collect is confirming for parents that their kids going through head acceleration activities that would be on par with them on a playground, or doing something normal in the backyard,” said Adam Bartsch, the Chief Science Officer for Prevent Biometrics.

Bartsch also has a son who plays for Tonka Youth Football, which is how the partnership came to be. He says they collected more than 10,000 head acceleration events.

Of those, they saw only 10 of what they call “check engine” impacts, which means a hit was hard enough to require evaluating a player – but doesn’t necessarily mean there was a concussion.

A recent CDC study shows that youth players who play tackle football do sustain more head impacts than those who play flag football – but the Tonka program is trying to bring more positive data to light.

RELATED: Former Vikings QB Brett Favre urges parents to wait to start kids in tackle football

“I believe it’s just peace of mind that look we’re playing a safe sport. Here’s the data that says it’s a safe sport and we want your kids to play football,” said Tony Wixo, the director of Minnetonka Youth Football.

Tonka Youth Football says it is the first youth football program in the world to use the mouth guards. Not only can they learn from the technology, but it’s also making sure coaches and parents are aware of any possible head injury, and from there, they can take their child to a doctor.

Prevent Biometrics says most head impacts happen in 10 milliseconds, and often aren’t caught by coaches. The mouth guards are another tool to make sure players get the care they need if a head injury does happen.