Head protection becoming more acceptable for athletes
Female athletes 68% more likely to suffer from concussions than boys
by Dr. Lynn McIntosh, DC
Traditionally soccer players have worn shin guards and cleats, but concern for concussion and other head injuries has made an impact on the soccer circuit as well.
A concussion happens when the athlete experiences a blow to the head strong enough to cause the brain to move around in the skull, even causing it to hit against the inside of the skull. This impact causes an interruption of normal brain function and can bruise the nerves in the brain. The cells in the brain immediately become frenzied in their attempt to get their equilibrium back. This can happen fairly quickly, or it can take several days to recover from the blow, depending on the severity.
It is during this recovery period that it becomes dangerous for the athlete to continue to participate in the sport.
A second impact can cause swelling in the brain and can be fatal. This second impact injury can have serious consequences whether it happens the same day as the original concussion, or even weeks later if the brain is still healing. Therefore, taking measures to prevent the concussion during sports should be a priority.
According to the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, 47% of concussions happen due to contact with another players head, foot, or elbow, 24% by hitting the head on the ground or goalpost, and finally 27% is caused by other means.
Female athletes are at a higher risk of concussion than male athletes and both sexes are more susceptible to second impact injuries during adolescence.
The Journal of Athletic Training reports that female athletes playing high school soccer are 68% more likely to suffer from a concussion than a boy in the same sport. This could be due to females having 26% less total mass in their heads than males, or it could be cultural in that females will report the injury more often than males will. Encouraging these young athletes to always report injuries is important to not only their immediate health, but to their careers in sports as well. As more and more attention is being called to concussions in young athletes, attempts to prevent them are on the rise.
Protective wear for the head in soccer is slowly making its way to the playing fields.
Although protective headgear is not mandatory at any level of soccer just yet, it is allowed. The National Federation of State High Schools, the organization that makes the rules for high school sports, has followed the direction of the United States Soccer Federation and FIFA (the governing soccer rule board) and allow protective headgear to be worn during competition. Local high school teams are slowly showing up with this new headgear and it is being accepted more and more.
Just as with any new protective gear in sports, it takes a while for it to catch on. Those who have chosen to have their teams wear the protective headgear feel it’s just a matter of time before it is mandated due to the fact that the headgear is designed to cover nearly 80% of the area injuries occur. It does take some adjustment to wearing the piece due to the change in how the athlete controls heading the ball.
Some tips to prevent injury during soccer are:
Be sure shin guards, cleats, and headgear are properly fitted and secured.
Pre-conditioning in strength training and agility to be sure the athlete is in top shape to endure the physical demands of the game.
Be sure the field conditions are appropriate for the game.
Drink plenty of water
Know your body and your limits.
As an athlete playing a sport you love, you know you will want to continue playing and enjoying the sport in years to come. Make sure you take care of your body and take precautions to continue your career beyond today’s game. If you experience a blow to the head and feel dizzy, light-headed, nauseous, confused, have blurred vision or are suddenly overly tired, take a break and let your coach know how you’re feeling. Knowing your body and taking care of it properly is part of being the best athlete you can be.
Dr. McIntosh is a board certified Chiropractor, licensed in both Kansas and Missouri. In addition to being licensed to provide general chiropractic care, she is also a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician, working with athletes from multiple disciplines on specific sports-related problems and a Certified Acupuncturist. She can be found on the internet at KansasCityChiropractic.com.
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