First Down Project: Brain Health Research

Thayne Munce, PhD, and his team recently completed 10 years of brain health research in youth football. This research represents the longest active study of youth football players in the United States. The primary goal of this research is to improve our understanding of brain injury risk in youth football to optimize players’ health and safety.

Dr. Munce’s team has measured over 30,000 head impacts from middle school football players and has captured comprehensive video footage to analyze characteristics of play associated with these impacts. They have also conducted extensive pre- and post-season neurologic evaluations in this population.

Collectively, these results comprise one of the largest databases of head impact exposure and neurologic function in youth football. Dr. Munce’s team has published their findings in leading medical journals and presented their work at national and international scientific meetings.

Dr. Munce and his team have conducted this research in partnership with South Dakota Junior Football (SDJRFB), a community-based youth football program of approximately 2,000 tackle and 800 flag football players. SDJRFB is based at the Sanford Sports Complex, which has nine full-size football fields used exclusively for youth football games.

Dr. Munce also sits on the leadership board of the National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute (NYSHSI), a partnership between Sanford Health and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). In this capacity, Dr. Munce has spearheaded a collaboration between the NYSHSI and USA Football on an in-progress project that will recognize SDJRFB as a model youth sports organization that has made significant efforts to minimize the risk of sports-related injuries and illnesses.

Watch a presentation on brain injury research from Dr. Munce at
Sanford Research.

Learn more about Dr. Munce’s lab.

Are youth football groups doing enough to protect kids from injury?
Read more from Dr. Munce.