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Study: girls suffer nearly twice as many youth soccer concussions as boys; doctor calls for ban on heading

May 9, 2012, 3:27 PM EDT


There are an estimated 300,000 sports-related concussions annually in the U.S. in the 15-to-24-year-old age range — with the No. 1 most dangerous sport being football, as one might guess. No. 2 most dangerous? That would be soccer. And when you look at the sport by gender, it’s actually girls soccer that is the more dangerous, according to a study by the American Journal of Sports Medicine cited by NBC’s Rock Center.

The leading reason for all these concussions in soccer? Heading the ball. And this has prompted one leading surgeon to call for heading to be banned from youth soccer for anyone under the age of 14.

London Daily Mail:

“People who think of concussions as only being present mostly in guys and mostly in the sport of football are just plain wrong,” said Dr Bob Cantu, chairman of the surgery division and the director of sports medicine at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts. “Soccer is right at the top of the list for girls.”

Other studies have also found that excessive heading in soccer can cause brain damage. It’s estimated that the typical adult amateur player heads the ball between 1,000 and 1,500 times a year. A study by researchers at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri, found that diagnoses of pediatric concussion cases increased by 58 percent between 2001 and 2010.

“What’s happening in this country is an epidemic of concussions, number one, and the realization that many of these individuals are going to go on to post-concussion syndrome, which can alter their ability to function at a high level for the rest of their lives,” Cantu said.

According to Dr Cantu, girls may be especially susceptible to concussions because they have weaker necks. New research further suggests that people with very long, thin necks are at an even greater risk.

“The same force delivered to a girl’s head spins the head much more because of the weak neck than it does the guys,” Cantu said.

Of course banning the header in youth soccer is one thing — getting kids to get out of the way of a ball coming toward their noggin is quite another. Plus, there are the soccer purists, and worst of all, the soccer moms. I don’t think there’s any way a ban like this would fly.

By the way: the No. 3 cause of youth sports concussions is wrestling, and No. 4 is girls basketball, according to the study.

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Concussion crisis growing in girls’ soccer [NBC Rock Center]

  1. sir1389 - May 9, 2012 at 8:49 PM

    Anatomically speaking men do have thicker skulls made of harder bone.