At soccer games, I cringe anyway watching players launch themselves up to head the ball. But now a Boston neurosurgeon has my full attention. After all, collisions in soccer seem inevitable during contested headers; too many heads aiming for a single target. Sometimes, a hit to the head is accidental. But this author and expert says even regular headers, the kind kids practice during drills, where players just try to move the ball or change its direction with their heads are bad, bad news for kids’ brains.
Robert Cantu recently authored Concussions and Our Kids, and says this to parents, soccer teams and clubs. NO headers before age 14. Cantu explains, “Children’s heads are disproportionately large compared with the rest of their bodies, and their necks are not strong enough to brace for a hit. This makes a child especially susceptible to a concussion, or the shaking of the brain inside the skull.”
Get this, high school soccer players sustain more concussions than athletes in basketball, baseball, softball, and wrestling combined, according to the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
While concussions are a huge concern, Cantu tells The Rotarian Magazine in the May 2013 issue that concussions aren’t the only concern. There is a larger issue of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease.
“The scariest thing for me is that in our research, we have seen kids with CTE in their teens”
And even if you don’t believe your child has suffered a concussion from heading a ball, a parent still should heed Cantu’s words;
“There are people with CTE who have never had concussions. Instead their condition developed as a result of many subconcussive blows.”
As soccer parents we all sign the forms acknowledging familiarity with the signs of concussion. But experts also recommend taking half an hour, whether you’re a coach, parent or grandparent to watch this free online training video from the Centers for Disease Control, “Heads Up.”
You know the Geico ad that says 15 minutes can save you hundreds on car insurance? In this case 30 minutes of your time could help prevent brain damage to your kid. Worth it?