While many consider football the number one concussion-inducing sport, new research suggests female soccer players face a higher risk of concussion when it comes to high school athletes.
Presented this week at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), their study claims girls who play soccer may face a higher risk of concussion than those who play American football.
Data was collected from high school athletic trainers across the country from 2005 to 2015 in nine sports: football, soccer, basketball, wrestling and baseball for boys, and soccer, basketball, volleyball and softball for girls. According to the report, in gender-matched sports, girls experienced much higher concussion rates than boys and were more common in girls soccer than any other sport.
Many blame the high concussion risk in soccer on headers, the act of striking the soccer ball with one’s head.
"By far and away the most common way that happens is two heads colliding with each other or the head colliding with an inanimate object,” said Ian Barker, director of coaching education for the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, headquartered in Kansas City.
Barker said teaching how to head a soccer ball properly with the correct technique, along with developing neck and core strength, is key.
"If the skill is taught inappropriately, the kids throwing themselves around, it can be really problematic,” he said.
The NSCAA followed the lead of U.S. Soccer last year, implementing new soccer safety guidelines in regards to heading – no heading for any players under the age of 10, and a limited amount of heading for those ages 11 to 13. The NSCAA also started an instructional online course for youth soccer coaches, which teaches safer heading techniques.
While Barker is happy that concussion awareness continues to increase, he also feels the numbers from the most recent study could be skewed, feeling that football is still the most inherently dangerous sport when it comes to brain trauma.
"Maybe some sports report more [concussions] than others. So maybe the macho environment of American football there's less reporting going on,” said Barker.
Dr. Gregg Canty also feels the numbers in the new study may be misrepresented.
The medical director for Children’s Mercy Center for Sports Medicine in Overland Park told 41 Action News he’s seen exponentially more concussions in recent years, but only because he feels people are now more aware of the symptoms and the seriousness of the injury.
He also said soccer is still a risk, but not like football.
"I don't know that we have increased incidents but as a sporting community and society we are doing a much better job of recognizing a potential concussion,” said Canty.
"Concussions can occur in any sport. And you have to know what the signs and symptoms of concussion are, and you have to know how to react and what to do if those concerns arise,” he said.
Signs of a concussion
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to noise
- General confusion
Josh Helmuth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org