Soccer related brain injuries

By : Evam kORTZ

Question

What steps could we take to help prevent brain injury within soccer players?
U.S. Soccer rolls out new rules to prevent kids’ concussions

Headers

One way to almost completely eliminate soccer brain injuries would be to ban heading the ball completely. Headers are such a big part of the play of soccer, players would not take to this restriction very kindly. And therefore they would not be likely to comply to the rule.

Article Study

In the article that I used for my research assignment and also the article that I gathered much of my data from for this project, it states that researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine used diffusion tensor imaging, an advanced type of MRI-based imaging technique, as well as cognitive tests, to assess brain function in amateur soccer players. The data they gathered states the possibility of brain injury from frequently heading the ball is present. The study included 38 amateur soccer players with an average age of just over 30, who all played the sport regularly since childhood. They were asked to estimate the number of times they headed the ball during the last year.The researchers compared the frequency of headers against the players' brain scans and cognitive function. They found that the players who had headed the ball frequently showed brain injuries not dissimilar to a concussion, known medically as mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Term #1: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a form of brain damage. It is a long term disease caused by repeated mild brain trauma, including sub-concussive hits to the head that do not cause immediate symptoms. These injuries lead to difficulties with thinking (cognition), emotions and behaviors that do not become noticeable until many years later. CTE can lead to physical problems as well.

Term #2: Concussion

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions. Effects are usually temporary but can include headaches and problems with cognition.

Although concussions usually are caused by a blow to the head, they can also occur when the head and upper body are violently shaken. These injuries can cause a loss of consciousness, but most concussions do not. Because of this, some people have concussions and don't realize it.

Concussions are common, particularly if you play a contact sport, such as football or soccer. But every concussion injures your brain to some extent. This injury needs time and rest to heal properly. Most concussions are mild, and people usually recover fully.

Term #3: Cognition

the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. Cognition can be affected by concussions or in CTE.

Local Help and Treatment

If you are experiencing symptoms of of a concussion such as: difficulty concentrating, slowed reaction time, dizziness, headaches, irritability, or changes in sleep patterns then visit the Albany Medical Center emergency room. al

Demographic

For every 10,000 soccer games or practices, there were 4.5 concussions among girls, and 2.8 for boys. Concussions are much more common among high school and college play, because of the much more aggressive mentality. However, younger players, around ages 10 and under, are much more susceptible to head injuries because of their underdeveloped necks and improper technique.

The Answer

The answer to my original question of "What steps could we take to help prevent brain injury within soccer players?" is to ban soccer ball headers for the age groups of 10 and below, as their bones (skulls) and bodies are still developing. It would also help to limit headers in the age groups of 11-14, as their bodies are mostly done developing, but they still need to take shape and harden all the way. Once players reach the age groups of 14 and above, they are allowed to head the ball only when necessary. Not only that, but the players must be introduced to and trained in the proper heading technique to avoid head to head collisions (the leading cause of concussions in soccer players). If players or parents still don't feel safe heading the ball, there are headbands that players can wear while playing to soften the blow of heading the ball. Under these circumstances, soccer players of all ages would be less susceptible to not only concussions but also less likely to get CTE and TBI.