Study: Pee Wee and Pop Warner Football Players Take NFL-Like Hits

As parents, we're always looking for ways to keep our kids safe at home, on the playground, and while playing sports. Given the increase in injuries among youth football players, some parents have begun to wonder how hard they're getting hit on the field.

Now, data from Virginia Tech shows that kids on the gridiron give and get hits to the head that are as hard as those dished out by high school, college, and professional football players.

According to a report by journalist Stone Phillips, set to air Monday night on PBS's "NewsHour," there's much more helmet-to-helmet contact among younger kids than there is among high school and college players. Part of the reason is that young boys' neck and chest muscles aren't developed enough to properly support their helmeted heads. Another reason? At 7 or 8 years old, kids just haven't had enough practice to automatically protect their heads when they make (or take) hits on the field.

Researchers Ray W. Daniel, Steven Rowson, and Stefan M. Duma monitored the impacts by equipping the helmets of several 7- and 8-year-old players with special accelerometers, collecting data on more than 750 hits. They found that the severity of the impact was "similar to some of the more severe impacts that college players experience, even though the youth players have less body mass and play at slower speeds." The harder impacts game during practice time, not during games, they wrote in their report.

"When compared to high school and college impact distributions, youth players experienced a substantially higher percentage of impacts to the side of the helmet and a substantially lower percentage of impacts to the rear of the helmet," the researchers wrote.

The study focused on just seven kids who were 7 and 8 years old, though Pee-Wee and Pop Warner football programs are usually for kids age 6 to 13. So more data is needed before we can say for certain whether the sport is too dangerous. But, in the meantime, i

Take a look at Phillips' report and see for yourself:

Watch Pint-Size Football Players Take Big-League Hits on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Does this change the way you feel about young kids playing football?

Copyright © 2012 Yahoo Inc.

Also on Shine:

3 important safety tips for sports parents
There's no size standard in junior high: Thoughts from a football coach
WATCH: This week in MOM, kids are ready for some football