USC aims to reduce youth football injuries

<p> <font size="2">The University of South Carolina is part of a national program looking to improve safety on youth football fields.</font> </p>

LEXINGTON, S.C. (WACH) - The University of South Carolina is part of a national program looking to improve safety on youth football fields.

USC has received a three-year grant from USA Football to study the types of injuries youth football players suffer.

It's part of an initiative to study and then combat concussion and head injuries in sports.

"As you know, the concerns related to concussions are widespread," said Dr. Jim Mensch, director of USC's athletic training department in the College of Education.

Mensch says the grant provides athletic trainers for youth football programs and the resources for them to track performance and injuries. This year, trainers from the USC Sports Medicine Department are working with the Lexington Youth Football League.

"We still don't even know what's going on at the youth level as well, so we're using these little accelerometers , these little x-2 patches that we put behind the athlete's ear," said Mensch. "What that does is it measures the G-force, the velocity, the magnitude of the head impact,"

The small device will also allow trainers to indicate the amount of head impacts an athlete has had over the course of a game, a practice, or a season. Valuable information from the accelerometer will also help trainers learn the types of impact certain position players experience on the field.

USC has also teamed up with the Marcus Lattimore Foundation which is helping sponsor the program.

Lattimore's stepfather, Vernon Smith, was at practice Tuesday night. He says he hopes the research will put parents at ease when it comes to their children playing football.

"We just want the parents to feel more safe with the kids being out there and we don't want parents to feel like we did when we were in the stands when Marcus was hurt, because we didn't know exactly how to feel," said Smith.

Mothers like April Feraci, who has four sons playing football right now, thinks the research is invaluable.

"To have the research to back up what needs to be done to be safe is great especially for moms," said Feraci.

Feraci's son suffered a concussion during the 2013 football season at Lexington High School.

"It was really scary, because you start to think and spiral into worse-case scenarios," added Feraci.

South Carolina is one of three states participating in the national football study. The program is in its third year.