Researchers at Virginia Tech have identified a drill that they've heard coined "King of the Circle" the most dangerous drill for 34 Virginia football players aged 9-11 who were part of the study, according to USA Today.
Just to clarify, the study isn't talking about drills like Ohio State's Circle Drill, or LSU's Big Cat Drill, which both take place with players in close proximity to start. The drill being scrutinized is much different. Bull in the Ring / King of the Circle points to the drill where one player is located in the center of a circle of players, the player in the center rushes to the perimeter of the circle where he collides full speed with a defender, and then turns around to the center of the circle to do it all over again, and again, and again.
Researchers attached accelerometers to the helmets of players doing a number of drills to gauge impact and found the King of the Circle drill to produce the highest magnitude and most frequent head impacts compared to the other drills that were observed. That's not exactly a surprise, and most coaches don't need a scientific study to realize when the risks of a drill outweigh the benefits before retiring a drill that has been around for years, but it's always nice to see some data, regardless of the size of the sample.
From the USA Today article:
“The is the first such study that examines specific drills,” study co-author Stefan Duma, professor and head of the department of biomedical engineering at Virginia Tech, told USA TODAY Sports. “Others have focused on practice times and the quantity of impacts absorbed in practice. This is the first that studied specific kinds of drills that causes the most problems, like King of the Circle.”
Here is a clip of the drill in action.
In an era where teams are limiting their full-contact days during the season more and more, drills like this are becoming extinct, but this latest study proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that the King of the Cirlce / Bull in the Ring Drill needs to be retired.
There are coaches and programs out there that continue to swear by this drills effectiveness today. A quick search of "Bull in the Ring Football Drill" on YouTube and you can see a number of videos proudly uploaded within the last few years.
Years ago I'm sure that was a reason behind the drill of confronting fear and delivering a blow, but with all the data out there on head trauma including the recent study from Virginia Tech, the benefits of this drill simply aren't worth the risk to players.
Read more on the USA Today article here, and share it with your staff at the younger levels and make sure you're doing your part to keep kids in your program safe.