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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Concussions in Middle School Girls Playing Soccer

Many continue to play through symptoms, increasing risk of second injury, experts say
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With so many injuries blamed on heading the ball, should it be banned?

Schiff thinks that is unrealistic. "It's part of the soccer sport," she said. However, it was found to result in concussion 23 times more often in a game than in practice. One suggestion, she said, is to teach middle school athletes heading in practice but tell them not to do it in games until they are older. The researchers speculate that younger players' less mature brains and weaker neck muscles, along with poorer heading technique, may contribute to the number of concussions.

The new study ''calls attention to the high incidence of concussion in this age group," said Dr. John Kuluz, director of traumatic brain injury and neurorehabilitation at Miami Children's Hospital.

The number of injuries blamed on heading the ball, 30 percent, is not surprising, he said. "I see it all the time," Kuluz explained. Often, he noted, a heading injury occurs along with colliding with another player.

Kuluz advises young athletes who have had a concussion to avoid heading the ball.

Parents need to pay attention to their child during and after soccer, he suggested. "In the event of an injury, pay attention to symptoms," Kuluz said. He added that if a concussion is suspected, a young athlete must be evaluated by a doctor or trainer who has experience with concussions.

"Soccer can be done safely," he said, but parents and coaches need to be aware of concussion symptoms and obtain good medical evaluation and care.

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