Head’s Up-Concussions in Youth Soccer

Nearly 18 million children play youth soccer in a given year, and according to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, soccer is the number one sport for high-school girls’ concussions. It is the number two sport for overall youth concussions, ranked only after boys’ football.

In fact, one in ten of all athletes will sustain a concussion this year, although this number may be low because many are never diagnosed or reported. The risk of permanent damage to young people is terrible, and many parents and coaches need to be educated further on the topic.

In soccer, the majority of concussions are not caused by heading the ball, as is commonly believed. In fact, over 70% of concussions sustained while playing soccer are caused by player-to-player contact.

Be aware of the symptoms of a concussion and look for them after every head incident.

1. headache or feeling of pressure in the head

2. nausea or vomiting

3. loss of balance or dizziness

4. double or blurry vision

5. overly bothered by light or noise

6. feeling sluggish, foggy, hazy or groggy

7. Difficulty paying attention

8. Memory problems

9. Confusion

10. Does not “feel right”

In the event that any of these symptoms present after a head injury, take the athlete out of the game. Do not attempt to assess the child yourself, but seek a health professional immediately. MRIs are common tests for diagnosing a concussion. It is imperative that you seek professional advice, because these injuries are hard to diagnose, may present even days after the incident, and may last for a long time.

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury, and should be treated with the utmost seriousness and care. Do not ever make light of a player who has banged her head and complains of a headache. Get help immediately.

Most treatment for a concussion includes monitoring and rest. And by rest, we mean both physical and cognitive. A child with a concussion may be kept home from school for a period of time, and may not be permitted to indulge in any activities which require concentration and attention, such as watching television, playing video games, or even sending text messages on her cell phone. While boring, this enforced leisure is extremely important, to give the brain time to heal fully. Most symptoms completely disappear within three weeks.

People who have suffered a concussion tend to be susceptible to a second, even if the second injury is a lesser injury than the first, and this is especially true if the symptoms from the first have not completely resolved. Thus it is critical to make sure that the injured child is fully healed before permitting her to play again.

Awareness and prevention measures should be taught to the athletes. At this age, players should not be encouraged to head the ball. Too many neck and spinal injuries are also possible, in addition to concussions, when athletes are not fully developed and in control of their bodies. Collisions among players should be avoided if possible, by players paying more attention to where on the field the other players are, and by not deliberately running into other players as a tactic.

With some education and preventive care, perhaps we can cut down on the number of young athletes who are injured in our sport each year.