The controversy over concussions and their impact on current and former NFL players continues to build. Alongside the issues facing professional athletes are the brain injuries suffered by children and teenagers in a wide range of sporting events. One activity that may soon face increased pressure is soccer. As the popularity of the sport rises in the United States, parents need to be aware of the dangers their children face on the field. According to one expert, the chances of sustaining a traumatic brain injury while playing soccer are as high as they are for playing hockey or football.
The American Academy of Pediatricians classifies soccer as a contact collision sport. Some youth leagues have responded to the medical discoveries involving concussions by banning heading the ball at younger levels. That may only be a small part of the problem. While repeated heading of the ball can cause cumulative damage to the brain, many soccer related concussions come when players’ heads bang together or a players head hits an elbow, knee, goalpost or the ground. There are countless opportunities in soccer games for a player to sustain a concussion.
As with any type of concussion, the risk of brain damage and even death rises if the victim suffers another head injury soon afterwards. Players who ignore concussion symptoms and attempt to “play through pain” risk permanent damage if they suffer another blow. So far, 30 states have passed the Lystedt Law which requires any player who is suspected of having suffered a concussion to see a doctor. The law is intended to prevent children who are at an elevated risk of permanent brain injury from returning to the field.
Many parents have begun to wonder if the risks of football or hockey are simply too great to allow their children to play. Soccer poses an equal risk, and parents whose kids play the game should pay close attention to potential signs of concussion-related symptoms. If your child has headaches, nausea, balance problems, insomnia or an unusual need for sleep, these may be caused by a head injury.