Youth: Are Pro Players Who Shrug Off Head Injuries a Bad Influence?

Dec 22, 2020

*This article is part of an educational series for soccer parents and players new to soccer*

It’s a common sight in many pro games. Two players equally matched go head to head for a high ball on the field. Sometimes these confrontations result in a “header” that cleanly hits the ball away. Other times the two players collide in a head-to-head collision. Most times, whatever the result, the pros walk it off and continue playing like the hit was no big deal. 

In 2018, former professional soccer player Rod Taylor, a British midfielder, was posthumously diagnosed with CTE. He had struggled for years with Alzheimer’s, which is another condition closely related to CTE, after suffering from brain trauma as a professional soccer player. 

Soccer is often known as a low-risk sport, but research shows that soccer players are almost as likely to suffer concussions as football players, which is often considered a far more dangerous sport. In a study of high school sports, after football and wrestling, high school soccer had the next highest injury rate. And 18% of all soccer injuries are concussions. 

There’s also new evidence that even “safe” hits, like heading the ball, can build up over time and cause long-term damage to brains and brain function. These hits are known as sub-concussive hits, and they can contribute to debilitating conditions like CTE  (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and dementia later in life.

Players, coaches, and parents need to take head trauma seriously. Many people do not understand the risks of concussions, especially to younger players. Subconcussive hits are especially damaging to younger players, whose brains and neck muscles are still growing and forming.

What Is A Concussion?

A concussion is an injury to the brain resulting from abrupt starting, stopping, and rotational forces on the brain from the head and neck. You can get a concussion from a collision, a fall, or from having your head whipped around - like in a car accident. Contact does not necessarily need to occur. 

What Happens to Brains With A Concussion?

When your brain is damaged, The damage to the brain tissue creates a “neurometabolic cascade.” The brain tries to repair itself, but because of the injury, the things it needs to repair itself are not there, and the result is brain impairment. 

Players suffering from a concussion must give their overstressed brains a rest and a chance to repair. Continuing to play or exposing your brain to more stimulus can cause real long term damage. So those pro players who get back up after an injury aren’t doing any of us any favors. 

How To Prevent Head Trauma in Young Soccer Players

Awareness of the dangers of head trauma is an important first step. Concussions are often hard to diagnose, and symptoms may not show up until days or even hours afterward. This ambiguity is why coaches and players must treat any potential concussion seriously and remove the player from play right away. 

Protective soccer headgear such as a soccer concussion headband can also help reduce head injury risks for young players. The ExoShield Head Soccer Guard lowers the rate of head injuries by as much as 84%, according to an independent study by the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab.  

Soccer helmets can’t prevent all head injuries, but they are a good start on protecting young players from the impact of direct collisions. If you are looking for the right head guard for your young player, check out our product page, or learn more about team orders.
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