A recently published study on the number of sports-related concussions in the United States found, not surprisingly, that football leads the list with the majority of these injuries. However, what is surprising about the results is that girls’ soccer came in with the second greatest number of these injuries.
Furthermore, the study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine found with “gender-comparable sports, girls had a higher concussion rate (1.7) than boys (1.0).” The research explains that player to player contact accounted for the greatest number of these injuries, while player to playing surface contact was the second most common cause.
An NBC Sports article reports that according to Dr. Robert Cantu, a leading sports medicine professional, girls in particular are more prone to concussions due to their weaker necks. Cantu explains that the same amount of force delivered to a boy’s and a girl’s head will cause the girl’s to spin much more, increasing the harm. He said that new research also suggests those with longer, thinner necks may have an even greater risk.
The article also cites other studies which have said that heading the ball in soccer can lead to brain damage as well. According to one study, youth soccer largely accounts for the 58 percent increase in the diagnosis of pediatric concussions seen from 2001 to 2010.
According to a FOX News report from last November, one study found that although heading a soccer ball does not create the impact needed to “lacerate nerve fibers in the brain,” over time the repetitive heading may “set off a cascade of responses that can lead to degeneration of brain cells.” Researchers for these studies found that those who headed the ball more frequently did worse on verbal memory and psychomotor speed tests.
However, soccer officials are not ready to place all the blame on heading the ball. According to the article, experts were not satisfied enough with the specificity of the data to believe that heading is the cause of these injuries. They believed other impacts could account for the damage seen.
What is undeniable about recent sports study findings is that the belief that concussions only happen to males, and generally only in football, has been disproven. Although concussion research has generally focused on full-contact sports like hockey and football, we now know these injuries can occur across a wide range of high school sports.
The recent sports medicine study explains that the “understanding of concussion rates, patterns of injury, and risk factors can drive targeted preventive measures and help reduce the risk for concussion among high school athletes in all sports.”