A group of researchers set out to investigate what causes the most concussions in teenage soccer games during high school.
What they found was that the number of injuries could definitely be reduced if schools banned headers and didn’t allow players to “head the ball”, but a significantly larger number of injuries could be reduced if schools banned rough player on player contact.
The study comes at a time when banning “heading” is being actively debated. The Safer Soccer campaign, supported by professional soccer players and promoted by the Sports Legacy Institute, a Boston-based nonprofit organization is currently demanding for “heading” to be delayed, at least until the players turn 14. Previous studies have shown that the human brain is most vulnerable between the ages of 8 and 14.
Dawn Comstock, lead author and member of the University of Colorado’s School of Public Health, gave a statement saying that is exactly why she and her colleagues conducted the study. She went on to explain that the idea seems to be a sound one on the surface as “heading” even incorporates the word “head”.
The problems is that when you start to examine the data more in depth, you can’t help but see that it’s not the act of “athletes hitting the balls with their heads” that causes that many injuries, but the “athlete-to-athlete contact that occurs during heading”.
For their study, the researchers looked at more than 1.000 examples of high school soccer game concussions that occurred between the years of 2005 and 2014.
The results showed that “heading” is indeed the most often encountered cause of concussion, especially when compared to other plays such as passing the ball or defending it. “Heading” was responsible for a little over 30 percent (30%) of head concussion encountered among boys and for roughly a quarter of head concussion encountered among girls.
However the majority of these incidents, 78 percent (78%) among boys and 62 percent (62%) among girls were the result of heading other players, not the game ball.
Comstock shared that she pretty much instantly questioned whether of not there was any evidence out there which supported the theory that if heading were to be banned, the number of head concussions would automatically drop and more people would be kept safe.
She also informed that current soccer rules in several leagues have limited player to player contact, and Comstock strongly believes that if schools were to reinforce the same type of rules, reduce or eliminate athlete to athlete contact, there’s a much higher chance that the number of concussions would drop. It’s much better guarantee than simply banning heading on its own.
Dr. Robert Cantu, medical director and co-founder of the Sports Legacy Institute, gave a statement to Reuters Health, agreeing with Comstock. He echoed the same idea that rough play has to also be addressed and that it might be even more dangerous than simoky heading the ball.
The study was published earlier this weed, on Monday (July 13, 2015), in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
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