8 Important Facts About Soccer Concussions that You Probably Didn't Know

R. Robert Franks, DO, FAOASM September 24th, 2014

If you have children who play soccer, you’re probably familiar with the term “soccer mom,” which refers to the committed parent, who spends hours of their week driving kids back and forth to practices, hundreds of dollars purchasing uniforms and paying travel team fees and countless weekends in a lawn chair on the side of soccer fields during all day tournaments. But being a so called “soccer mom” (or dad!) takes on a new level of commitment when parents become truly informed about the reality, frequency and dangers of soccer concussions. Compared to sports like football and ice hockey, soccer may seem like a less likely arena for the potential for concussions. However, according to the Journal of Athletic Training, as reported by MomsTeam.com, the reality is that:

While football players are most at risk, soccer comes in a close second as it accounts for 16.5% of all causes of traumatic brain disorders in children seen in emergency rooms each year.

In fact, aside from car accidents, playing sports is the next leading cause of brain injuries in kids.

It’s no wonder soccer parents everywhere are on a mission to protect their kids from concussions and raise awareness about the symptoms and long term dangers of soccer concussions. These brain injuries occur when impact to the head or body is strong enough to move the brain inside of the skull. When the soft tissue of the brain makes contact with the bone of the skull, the result is that the body responds differently to stimuli. This change is response and/or behavior may be brief or could last several weeks. Symptoms vary greatly, but one thing is true across the board: concussions are quite literally an injury to the brain and should always be taken very seriously.

About the Game

Soccer is really a game that relies on skill and finesse to be played correctly. However, it is also very much a contact sport. Players are allowed, according to the rules, to be relatively physical so long as there are no elbows thrown, slide tackles from the back or other dangerous activity that is considered to be foul play.

During the average game of soccer, a player gets an intense cardiovascular workout. Depending on the level of play and the position of the player, a soccer player can run several miles worth of distance throughout the course of a game! However, a soccer player’s body is taxed in more ways than just the obvious ones. Along with using their legs to run, dribble, pass and shoot, players are also taught to use their thighs, chests and heads to receive, control and move the ball.

There may be many instances in a game where a player leaves the ground to jump for a 50/50 head ball or collides with a defender in an attempt to win a crossed ball in front of the goal. It is easy to see how these kinds of instances can become scenarios for potential soccer concussions.

8 Interesting & Important Facts Related to Soccer Concussions

  • According to a study published in “Brain Injury” (2010), a majority of athletes who experience a concussion during the run of play do not realize that they have sustained a concussion. They may experience symptoms after the game is over, but by that time, the concussion often goes untreated, which can be dangerous.
  • It is possible for a soccer player to still sustain a concussion even if they are wearing protective head gear.
  • Often, it is not the obvious symptoms  (headache, blurred vision) that indicate a possible concussion in a player. Many times, it is the coaching staff that firsts suspects a concussion based on irregular behavior of the athlete. Commonly reported symptoms from coaches and staff include clumsy movements, confusion about the game or uncommon irritability.
  • More obvious symptoms of soccer concussions include headache or head “pressure,” dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, memory loss and sensitivity to light and sound.
  • A 2013 study by researchers at Boston Children's Hospital discovered that symptoms remained for nearly twice as long in those who had already sustained concussions in the past.
  • In terms of high school soccer, female athletes appear to be more susceptible to concussions than males. In fact, they suffer from this head injury nearly 40% more frequently (or in the least, they report it more frequently).

With the facts in hand, you’re ready to go out and do your job as a parent. Your primary role, of course, is to be your child’s greatest fan! In addition though, be sure to stay on the lookout for any signs of concussion and see to it that proper care is taken to immediately diagnose and address any issues that may arise.

Here’s to an injury-free season for all of our soccer friends out there!

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