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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Concussions in Middle School Girls Playing Soccer

Many continue to play through symptoms, increasing risk of second injury, experts say

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Kathleen Doheny

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Girls who play soccer in middle school are vulnerable to concussions, new research shows.

And despite medical advice to the contrary, many play through their injury, increasing the risk of a second concussion, the study found.

Although awareness has increased about sports concussions, little research has been done on middle school athletes, especially girls, noted study co-author Dr. Melissa Schiff, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle.

In the study, which evaluated 351 soccer players between the ages of 11 and 14, Schiff and her colleagues found 59 concussions. A concussion is defined as a traumatic injury to the brain after a blow, shaking or spinning. In the study, the girls' symptoms included headache, dizziness, drowsiness and concentration problems.

That rate of injuries, Schiff said, is higher than what has been reported at either high school or college level of women's soccer.

Heading the ball was to blame for about 30 percent of the injuries. This involves hitting the ball with your forehead to redirect the ball in play. More than half of the concussions were from contact with another player.

Experts recommend those who have a concussion be evaluated by a doctor or other health care professional trained in the injury, but Schiff found that ''56 percent were never evaluated." Experts also advise that players not return to practice or games until symptoms disappear, but 58 percent of the players in the study continued to play even with symptoms persisting, she said.

The study was published online Jan. 20 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Awareness about the dangers of concussions has increased, Schiff said, beginning with the National Football League's attention to the problem. Research about the problem has slowly increased to encompass college-level, high school, and now middle school players, she said.

In this study, the researchers randomly selected 33 of 72 elite teams from four youth soccer clubs in the Puget Sound region of Washington state. The study continued from 2008 to 2012. Players reported injuries and symptoms.

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