Youth football teams in Hixson, Tennessee, and The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga have been selected by MomsTEAM Institute, a leading youth sports health and safety think tank and watchdog group, for a pilot test of MomsTEAM’s innovative SmartTeam™ program.

Modeled on the community-centric approach to improving youth sports safety highlighted in MomsTEAM’s PBS documentary, “The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer,” Dr. Gary Wilkerson, Dr. Marisa Colston, and Dr. Shellie Acocello, faculty in The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Graduate Athletic Training Program, are working with Hixson youth football teams to reduce the risk of brain and other injuries when younger children participate in the sport.

On Saturday, October 11, helmet impact sensors installed for four Hixson youth football teams were monitored during games played at Finley Stadium.  The sensors were installed in the helmets of approximately 60 youth football players.  Watch the video.

“At present, there is no clearly established threshold for the magnitude of force that is likely to cause a concussion. The sensors installed in the players’ helmets permit continuous ‘real-time’ monitoring of impacts that occur during games (quantified in Gs; multiples of gravity force),” Dr. Gary Wilkerson said.

Measurement of typical helmet impact force levels for youth football players in different age groups could be compared to those for high school and college players, which may ultimately provide an objective basis for risk assessment and development of strategies for risk reduction, Wilkerson went on to explain.

The helmet impact sensors used on October 11 were donated by a Canadian company, Gforcetracker, Inc., Markham, Ontario.  See  The owners of Gforcetracker, Inc., Paul Walker and Gerry Iuliano, were on site October 9 as the sensors were installed and October 11 during the pilot test.

The Hixson/University of Tennessee at Chattanooga program is one of only six SmartTeams pilot programs nationwide, along with Columbia, South Carolina/University of South Carolina; Mesa, Arizona/A.T. Still University; East Lansing, Michigan/Michigan State University; Skiatook, Oklahoma/University of Tulsa; Grand Prairie, Texas/University of Texas at Arlington.  Like the Hixson/UTC program, each is being coordinated by a university-based athletic training educator, clinician and researcher.

The SmartTeams program expands on the Six Pillar™ approach to sports injury and concussion risk management which MomsTEAM used to help a high school football program in rural Oklahoma drastically reduce its concussion rate and improve the identification and management of concussions when they occurred, which is featured in the Smartest Team documentary

Over the course of the fall 2014 football season, UTC faculty are providing parents, coaches and officials in the Hixson program with ongoing education on how they and their child’s program can help keep them safe.

Wilkerson and Colston discussed their involvement in the pilot program at MomsTEAM’s groundbreaking SmartTeams Play Safe™ Summit at Harvard Medical School in Boston on September 15, when a world-class group of experts made presentations about youth sports health and safety best practices.

When the program rolls out nationally in 2015, SmartTeams™ status will be awarded to youth sports organizations, nominated by parents, which have demonstrated a commitment to minimizing the risk of injury to young athletes by implementing a comprehensive set of health and safety best practices, providing safety-conscious sports parents a level of assurance that they have made health and safety an important priority, not to be sacrificed at the altar of team or individual success.

The SmartTeam program takes a holistic approach to youth sports safety which addresses not just a child’s physical safety, but emotional, psychological and sexual safety as well, and will show how, by following best practices, youth sports programs can stem the rising tide of injuries that have become an all-too-common and unfortunate by-product of today’s hyper-competitive, overspecialized, and over-commercialized youth sports environment.

Among the best practices the SmartTeams pilot program will implement are:

  • Sport-related concussion best practices
  • Injury prevention strategies in youth sports
  • Reducing injury risk in youth football
  • Cognitive rest and return to learn after concussion
  • Bullying, emotional and psychological injury prevention
  • Preventing sexual abuse of youth athletes
  • Role of game officials in injury prevention
  • The power of the permit in youth sports safety

“The purpose of the SmartTeam pilot program is to demonstrate to parents, coaches, administrators, and health care professionals that there are steps we can take now to make youth sports safer,” said Brooke de Lench, Executive Director of MomsTEAM.

SmartTeams Play Safe™

“For far too long, the national media has focused on reporting on how youth sports programs fall short in protecting the health and safety of youth athletes.  I think the time has come to take a much more positive and pro-active approach by publicizing programs that put safety ahead of winning,” de Lench said.

“I am excited about the opportunity of working with MomsTEAM, Brooke de Lench, and my fellow pilot program coordinators in developing and testing a set of youth sports health and safety best practices.  Like them, I believe that, through the SmartTeams program, we have a chance to accomplish a paradigm shift in the way we talk about sports safety in this country, but it is only going to happen if parents demand change at the grassroots level.  The SmartTeams program is designed to give them a benchmark against which to measure their child’s commitment to a safer sports experience, to support those programs that measure up and demand change for those that don’t,” Wilkerson said.

For more information about SmartTeams, visit

About MomsTEAM Institute and

Launched in August 2000, has grown over the years, both in terms of content and reputation, to the point that it now has 10,000 + pages of information for youth sports parents and has become the most trusted source of sports parenting information, widely recognized as one of, if not the, top websites of its kind.

MomsTeam Institute, Inc. is a Massachusetts non-profit corporation formed in November 2013 to continue and expand on MomsTEAM’s fourteen-year mission of providing comprehensive, well-researched information to youth sports parents, coaches, athletic trainers, and other health care professionals about all aspects of the youth sports experience.

Media Relations Contacts: Email UTC Media Relations or call 423-425-5119.

1 Comment » for SmartTeams Pilot Program to Implement Youth Sports Safety Best Practices
  1. Important note. This was part of the “SmartTeams Play Safe” pilot program that MomsTeam Institute ran in six communities during the fall of 2015. Thank you for all of your emails. We will launch this program nationwide in 2015.

    Brooke de Lench
    Executive Director
    MomsTEAM Institute
    Producer of “THE SMARTEST TEAM: Making High School Football Safer” (PBS 2014)