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Concussions in Soccer: More Common Than Parents Realize?

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Headgear Protects

Teenage soccer players who wear protective headgear suffer nearly half as many concussions as those who play without helmets, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Canada's McGill University.

Researchers followed 250
adolescent (ages 12 to 17) soccer players during the 2006 season. They
found that 53 percent of those who did not wear protective headgear
suffered concussions compared to 27 percent of those who wore safety

Other Findings

The study, published in the July 2007 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, also found that:

  • Nearly half of the players (47.8%) experienced symptoms of concussion during the 2006 season.
  • Approximately
    4 out of 5 athletes did not realize that they had suffered a concussion
    (most likely because they thought a concussion required loss of consciousness)

  • Multiple concussions were less frequent among the concussed athletes (50.0%) who wore protective headgear than those who did not (69.3%).
  • Nearly one-quarter (23.9%) of players suffering concussions experienced symptoms for at least one day or longer.
  • Female soccer players were at increased risk of suffering concussions.
  • Female
    soccer players not wearing protective headgear were also at increased
    risk of suffering other kinds of head injuries, such as abrasions,
    lacerations or contusions on areas of the head that otherwise would
    have been covered by the headgear.

Should Parents Consider Soccer Headgear?

The McGill study is the first "to say that soft protective headgear for
soccer significantly decreased the number of concussions for those
athletes," said lead researcher, Dr. Scott Delaney in an interview with
the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Delaney hopes the study will prompt
parents to consider headgear for their children.

The new study may also prompt a reevaluation of the effectiveness of
protective headgear in soccer by soccer governing bodies, at least one
of which, the U.S. Soccer Federation, is currently on record
as stating that there is "no evidence that wearing this sort of
headgear is beneficial to players," (a statement later at least
partially retracted: it now admits helmets may be beneficial in
head-to-head collisions) and as expressing the concern that "it might
actually lead to more injuries" because of the so-called "gladiator
effect" where players take more chances because they feel better

No More Aggressive Play Reported

One of the reasons some experts cite as a reason for not wearing
protective headgear is the concept of risk compensation. According to
the Prague consensus statement, risk compensation is "where the use of
protective equipment results in changes in behavioral change such as
the adoption of more dangerous playing techniques which can result in a
paradoxical increase in injury rates." "This may be of particular
concern in child and adolescent athletes where head injury rates are
often higher than in adult athletes," says the statement.

The new study seems to show that such risk compensation was not
present in the athletes studied.

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