Concussion in Young Women’s Soccer

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On the surface you would think that concussions in Girl’s soccer would not be especially common. Unfortunately they are. Every year hundreds of girls across America suffer concussions while playing soccer.
 
Read what Dr. Bob Cantu says, “People who think of concussions as only being present mostly in guys and mostly in the sport of football are just plain wrong,” said. “Soccer is right at the top of the list for girls.” Dr. Cantu is chairman of the surgery division and the director of sports medicine at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Mass.
 
Considering the continued popularity of youth soccer, more girls are playing the game than ever before. There are more than 3 million kids registered in US Youth Soccer leagues. Currently Girls make up 48 percent of the total.
 
The number of girls suffering concussions in soccer accounts for the second largest amount of all concussions reported by young athletes, according to the American Journal of Sports Medicine. (Football tops the list.)
 
“What’s happening in this country is an epidemic of concussions, number one, and the realization that many of these individuals are going to go on to post-concussion syndrome, which can alter their ability to function at a high level for the rest of their lives,” Dr. Cantu said.
 
Girls as young as twelve years old are suffering concussions while playing soccer. In some cases is has been reported that even after two years some are still exhibiting symptoms including; intense headaches, dizziness, nausea and vision problems. One of the major problems is “heading”, using your forehead to strike the ball.
 
Dr. Cantu has recommended that heading be eliminated from youth soccer for girls under the age of 14.  He said girls, because of their anatomy, may be especially vulnerable to concussions. “Girls as a group have far weaker necks,” Cantu said.  “The same force delivered to a girl’s head spins the head much more because of the weak neck than it does the guys.”
 
New research also suggests some body types may be more at risk than others. Cantu comments again, “We believe that individuals with very long, thin necks may be at greater risk. I would hope it would not only make parents look at their daughters, but make every one of those parents insist their daughters are on a neck strengthening program if they’re playing a collision sport.”
 
But, not everyone agrees with Dr. Cantu, including Brandi Chastain, the Olympian who helped the United States win a World Cup, “It’s a part of the game and I think it’s an important part and I think it’s a beautiful part of the game, to be honest with you,” she said. “I would never want to see that go away, but there’s a right way to do it. There’s a protective way to do it. Girls need to be taught to create protective space around their bodies. Heading isn’t dangerous if it’s done correctly. I circle back to education and preparation and I put that on parents and coaches because the kids don’t know any better,” Chastain added. “You know, they just want to go out there and play, but if we can educate them in a fun environment that’s safe, that teaches them the skill and gives them the confidence to try it and then they can put it into practice in the game.”
 
According to NJ.com starting in the fall of 2013 schools in Princeton will become the first in the state to require that athletes playing soccer, girls lacrosse or field hockey wear protective headgear during games. The mandate will only be placed on sixth graders this fall but will eventually apply to all athletes through grade 12.
 
Unlike a football helmet, the helmets will be soft and cover the temples, forehead and top of the head. The school board will foot the bill which can cost up to $70 per helmet. Only one problem, not everyone believes these soft helmets will make a difference. and could possibly make the situation worse.
 
Barbara Greiger-Parker, the president of the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey, told NJ.com that she wasn’t aware of any scientific studies that prove that these particular helmets actually reduce concussion risk, and Robb Rehberg, the athletic trainer at the Center for Concussion Care in Summit, N.J., expressed concern that the new headgear might encourage more physicality on the field.
 
“Adding headgear could potentially give athletes a false sense of protection that would make them play more aggressively,” Rehberg told NJ.com.
 
Addressing the concussion issue is certainly a positive thing but it is painfully apparent that a lot more work needs to be done to help correct this situation.
 
Here are some “Recommended Return to Play Procedures/Tips:”
  • If a player is suspected of having a concussion, they NEED to seek immediate medical attention.
  • Youth participants should be kept out of all athletic activities (including practice) when a concussion is suspected/diagnosed.
  • Athletes are significantly more likely to receive a second concussion if they begin athletic activity too soon while the brain is healing from trauma.
  • Keep athletes who might have or definitely have a concussion away from cognitive activities that require concentration or intense focus including; video games, computer work, cell phone games and lengthy TV watching.
  • Under no circumstance should you give any medication to an athlete who is suspected of having a concussion unless it was previously prescribed or authorized by a physician post trauma.
The State of Michigan, US Youth Soccer, and MSYSA mandate that no youth athlete be permitted to return to competition (games or practice) until they are cleared by a physician.
 
Resources:
http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2013/08/princeton_schools_become_the_first_in_the_state_to_require_headgear_for_soccer_lacrosse_and_field_ho.html
 
What are the symptoms of a concussion?
The easiest way to show you is to show you. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has created an outstanding infographic for the symptoms of a concussion. CHOP encourages others to embed this infographic on their site or in a post and the Children’s Safety Blog has done exactly that.
 
The following Infographic was created by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia:
 
Children's Safety Blog CHOP Concussion Symptoms.
 
To read the two articles from Children’s Hospital and see all of their infographics use the following two links:
 
http://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/concussion-care-minds-matter#.VSsph_nF_nh
 
http://www.chop.edu/concussion-care-minds-matter/coaches#.VSsp_PnF_ng
 
Photo credit: Fort Meade / Foter / CC BY