By Mark Powell MS ATC, CSCS

Everyone knows that heading the ball in soccer is part of the game. Players use their head to pass, shoot and intercept the ball while playing the game. But heading the ball clearly, causes impact and studies have linked heading in soccer as a possible cause of concussions in soccer.

Simply defined, a concussion is an injury to your brain that affects brain function. The symptoms, which are usually temporary, can include headaches, memory loss, balance problems, coordination, and difficulty with concentration, which can affect school performance. Receiving a blow to the head that causes the brain to move back and forth within the skull forcefully can result in a concussion.

CNN published a recent article about the heading of soccer balls and concussion symptoms titled – “Soccer: Heading the ball linked to concussion symptoms.” The article reviews recent studies and provides data and feedback from experts.

Here are some of the key points provided in the article;

One study surveyed 222 adult amateur players who played soccer six months out of a year. The survey asked how many times they played in the last two weeks and how many times they headed the ball or were accidentally hit in the head by a ball during that period.

After dividing the participants into four groups separated by how often they headed the ball, they found that the top group averaged 125 head impacts while the bottom group averaged just four. A total of twenty percent reported moderate to severe concussion symptoms. “Moderate” meaning some pain and dizziness with “severe” meaning feeling dazed, stopping play or needing medical attention.

After analyzing the data, researchers determined that players who headed the ball the most were three times more likely to have symptoms than those who headed it the least. An important point made in the study is that “unintentional impacts” such as collisions or falls, made players six times more likely to have symptoms if they had more than one “unintentional impact” than those who had none.

The article also made the point that most concussions in soccer occur from player-to-player and player-to-ground contact. Heading is responsible for just 15% to 25% of concussions in soccer, and most are a result of poorly executed headers where two players hit heads. Additional training on how to properly head the ball could reduce that number.

The negative effects of concussive impacts can be lessened not only with better technique, but with improved core and neck muscular strength It also noted that more commonly, it’s the accidental bumps, falls, and collisions that lead to concussions. In my experience, this is true, although more research is needed on head impacts resulting from heading goal kicks and goalie punts, where the ball is traveling at high velocity, and/or from greater heights compared to “passing” or shooting headers.

The full CNN article can be found at the following link;

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