Concussions are increasing in youth soccer, but heading isn't the only cause
A new study took data from a large survey of high school sports-related injuries in the United States and came to the conclusion that concussions are rising sharply in youth soccer. The data included 3 million practices and games at high schools from 2005 to 2014.
Surprisingly, heading, the practice of bouncing a ball off a players head in gameplay, wasn't the most significant cause of concussion. The majority of those injuries actually resulted from rough in-game body contact, mostly in boys games: 68% of concussions in boys games and 51% in girls were tied to player to player contact. Heading accounted for 30% of concussions in boys, and 25% in girls, but even in those cases, most of the concussions were not from the ball itself, but from body contact while heading was taking place. The incidence of concussion from just contact of the ball with the head was only 17% in boys and 29% in girls. The study included no information about younger soccer players such as elementary school students, who are most at risk, as their brains are still developing.
These results raise questions about the efficacy of banning heading, something many children's health advocates have supported. Instead of banning heading, encouraging youth players to follow game safety rules and the addition of protective padding may be more useful in helping to prevent concussions.