Soccer head injuries: the 7 facts you need to know
Jul 31, 2018
Jul 31, 2018
Recent studies concluded that soccer head injuries are on the rise. In high school, girls' and boys' soccer are the second and third most dangerous sports for concussions, preceded only by football. Things get worse in college- according to NCAA studies, the rate of head injuries in women's soccer is even greater than football's. Soccer also exposes the head to cuts and bruises- less scary, but quite common and painful. According to a World Cup study, there is one head injury every 3 games, on average.
While concussions get most of the attention, there are 3 different types of soccer head injuries. First, "superficial" injuries (like cuts and bruises) affect the surface of the head without affecting the brain. Second, full-blown concussions (by far the scariest) are caused by intense impact that rattles the brain inside the skull, causing harm that can be long-lasting. Thirdly, the less talked about sub-concussive hits: caused by lighter hits like heading the ball, rattling the brain with less force. These hits pose a threat to the way the brain functions over the following 1-2 days.
Full-blown soccer head injuries, namely, concussions can be even more damaging than injuries in football. Studies show that soccer players are twice more likely than football players to require 22+ days of recovery. Furthermore, heading the ball can damage your ability to see and remember for 24-48 hours. Recent studies by the University of Stirling have shown that after heading the ball, players exhibit severely impaired performances in memory, planning, and visual perception. These detrimental effects have given rise to discussions about mandatory soccer head protection, especially for youth players (more on this later).
While head injuries in soccer affect both genders, they are reported even more prevalently in girls. Head injuries represent 15% of all girls soccer injuries (vs. 10% for boys), and some studies show that concussions can be 2x more likely to happen to a girl than a boy (studies debate the underlying reason, which is sometimes attributed to differences in neck strength).
According to a University of Colorado study, more than 1 in 4 concussions occur when players used their heads to hit the ball. But more than half of these heading-related concussions were caused by collisions with another player rather than with the ball. These collisions included head-to-head, elbow-to-head and shoulder-to-head contact.
While there is no "silver bullet" that can reduce ALL risks of head injuries in soccer (even banning headers is a mere band-aid), Virginia Tech Helmet Lab recently concluded that soccer headgear can indeed dramatically reduce the risk of concussions. Furthermore, a 2-year study of high school soccer players by University of Wisconsin Madison showed that- while the "average" headgear did not significantly reduce the risk of concussions- the Storelli ExoShield Head Guard statistically reduced the relative risk of concussions by 60%, the only product studied to achieve a statistical benefit.
In its pioneering study, Virginia Tech concluded that no soccer headgear on the market protects players more than the Storelli ExoShield Head Guard, with an estimated 84% reduction in head injuries. Why is it the best? Because its patented technology embeds the same type of foam used in US military helmets, making the ExoShield a superior form of soccer head protection. It also complies with ASTM / FIFA / NFHS standards, fits both men and women, and is sleekly designed for a minimalist look. This is why it was also recently chosen as the Official Head Protection of US Club Soccer and it's the go-to choice for world-class pro clubs around the world.
Needless to say, there is no "silver bullet" solution against concussions. At best, according to recent studies headgear may help reduce some of the risks. But for players and parents who want to err on the side of being safe, it may represent a practical option.