Youth: How Many Concussions Are Too Many?

Sep 3, 2021

Having one concussion is one too many, much less suffering three, four or more. True, one concussion usually doesn’t lead to lifelong disability, but having multiple concussions may end one’s career (or life) prematurely. 

As researchers learn more about how concussions affect the brain, soccer players, coaches and their parents should take heed. This post will take a closer look at what research has to say about having multiple concussions and if there is a magic number that signals trouble. 

Is There a Set Number of Concussions That’s Too Much 

There is no set number as to how many concussions humans can have before they suffer permanent damage. After all, some athletes experience symptoms for years after just one concussion, while others are seemingly okay after having more than one. 

But generally speaking, the more concussions you have, the greater your risk of suffering permanent damage becomes. Ideally, an athlete shouldn’t get any concussions. However, the most important thing is to keep the number of concussions one has to an absolute minimum.  

The Dangers of Too Many Concussions

Chances are if you had a concussion (or ever have one), the recovery time was (or will be) short. The symptoms usually disappear within 7-10 days, although they can last for up to 3 months. But after they resolve, there’s usually no further complications and the brain will have healed. 

When the brain suffers multiple concussions though, it’s a whole different beast altogether. Just like a bone or muscle, the brain needs a certain period of time for it to fully recover from an injury. When its healing mechanisms are overwhelmed by several concussions, permanent damage may occur. 

When the brain sustains too much trauma, its pathways weaken and signalling in the brain slows down. Also, blood flow and oxygenation slows down, meaning one’s brain cells have a harder time doing their job. This makes it harder to think, concentrate, and even move. The brain can still operate like this, but it burns more energy to accomplish less. And then the brain gets tired. 

Of course, the more concussions you have, the worse these effects become. They could lead to second impact syndrome (SIS), which is often fatal or permanently disabling to those who survive from it. Fortunately, this condition is very rare and usually only happens when an athlete ignores blatant concussion symptoms and gets hit repeatedly. 

Practical Steps to Prevent Future Concussions

Whether you’ve had a concussion or not, the most important thing is to reduce the risk of them from happening (or recurring). You can’t eliminate your risk completely, but you can take steps to protect yourself on the pitch. That usually requires a combination of soccer protective gear, conditioning and improvement of certain skills. 

Protecting Your Brain from Injury

  • Wear soccer concussion headgear - Concussion headgear doesn’t eliminate concussion risks altogether. However, they contain shock absorbing materials that reduce the force of traumatic hits to the head. This reduction in force can protect the brain from more harmful impacts. 
  • Emphasize and practice better technique - Concussion avoidance becomes easier when players use their bodies better. That means learning how to head the ball more effectively and improving their visual awareness to avoid colliding with other players. Players can improve all of these skills by practicing them regularly. 
  • Improve overall conditioning and fitness - Research has shown that weaker neck muscles can increase the risk of sustaining a concussion. Strengthening the neck muscles can increase their ability to absorb shock, which means less force transferred to the head. 
  • As Close to Zero As Possible

    Having one concussion by itself is problematic, but very manageable if treated early and carefully. The more hits your brain takes, however, the harder it is for it to return to a normal state of health and functioning. So it’s important to protect it from as many impacts as possible. 

    After all, you only get one brain.  

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