Organized sports offer a long list of benefits for our kids. They build not only bodies, but character as well. Kids learn to strive, work toward shared success, and push through adversity. But these opportunities don’t come without risk. When we think of dangerous sports, we generally think of football, hockey, or lacrosse, not soccer. But the fact is, soccer is a contact sport, and as such, soccer players suffer contact injuries.
Concussions in sports have been getting a lot of attention lately. Much of the concern is related to repeat injuries, and the cumulative effect they can have over time. We hear about it most often relating to football, particularly NFL players, but studies show players get just as many concussions in soccer as in any other contact sport.
Causes of Concussions in Soccer
You may be surprised to learn that heading is responsible for very few concussions. [However, heading the ball DOES contribute to brain injuries as the latest studies have found!] Far more are the result of collisions with other players (heads, elbows, feet), with balls, with goalposts, and with the ground. Purposeful heading done properly causes extremely few concussions.
Signs of a Concussion
Soccer players, their coaches, and their parents need to know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion and what to do when a player takes a blow to the head. Concussion symptoms can be difficult to spot. On the field, check for headache, vacant staring, fuzzy memory, blurred vision, balance problems. If any of these is present, the player should be evaluated by a medical professional and kept out of play until granted a release.
Symptoms can sometimes show up later at home. The child may feel nauseous, or sluggish, or not be able to concentrate. A player with these symptoms within a few days of the blow needs to be evaluated for a possible concussion.
Care for Concussions
If a concussion is diagnosed, it is extremely important that the child doesn’t play until their brain has had a chance to completely recover. If in doubt then sit it our. The dangers of a second concussion too soon after the first are well-documented. It’s called second impact syndrome, and it can lead to slower recovery time and potentially to swelling of the brain and long term brain damage.
When players get injured, it’s common for them to want to get back in the game before they’re ready. They think, and maybe they’ve been taught, that it shows dedication and commitment. While these are admirable traits indeed, in the case of head injuries, they can lead to some very serious and lifelong consequences.