There was a recent study published headlined by a medical professor at Northwestern University who says that girls who play HS soccer suffer a much higher incidence of concussions than boys do – even those boys who play HS football.
As you might imagine, I was somewhat stunned by this. After all, the vast majority of attention in recent years has been paid to the long-term concerns regarding the health of football players. Sure, it’s well known that concussions can occur in any sport, but this new study shifts the focus to girls’ soccer, and that caught my eye.
In the study, which looked at 41,000 injuries to HS athletes in 9 popular sports between 2005-2015, 6,400 concussions were tabulated.
And during that time span, the concussion rate for girls’ soccer was higher than in football – and especially in the years from 2014-2015.
Now, if you’re a sports parent of a daughter who plays soccer, what does this mean? Suddenly, you may be having some of the medical misgivings about soccer as the parents of football players do. Of course, as I have noted over the years, concussions are part of all sports, and accidents do happen. I would daresay that it’s rare to find a kid who hasn’t suffered at least one concussion during their playing career.
But that being said, concussions do come in different degrees, and athletes and parents and coaches have to be careful about the handling of serious concussions. And medical doctors caution about repeated concussions; that is, one hit to the head can be treated, but if the youngster returns to action too soon, and receives another concussion, that’s where long-term concerns come into play.
In any event, I asked my listeners this AM as to what’s causing the spike in female concussions? Is this due to excessive heading of the ball in soccer? Or heading being done incorrectly?
Should the girls in soccer be wearing more protective headgear? I know some girls wear protective headgear AFTER they suffer a concussion….but should they all be wearing headgear as a precaution as well?
And of course, is there just too much physical contact during the game?
Not surprisingly, the responses ranged from too much heading, and that it’s taught incorrectly at the younger ages when the most damage can be done to a developing brain. Head gear is also now receiving more and more attention as a protective measure. And finally, one caller suggested that the refs have to do a better job in controlling the physical action on the field in order to minimize physical contact. Kids falling to the turf and hitting their heads on the ground is a major source of concussion.
AND WHAT ABOUT GIRLS LACROSSE?
In addition, I know there’s been a lot of talk in recent months about girls lax and girls being told to wear headgear to protect them from concussions.
But from what I can tell, while some schools make such headgear mandatory, this protective trend isn’t really taking off in a big way – even though I can personally tell you from the years of watching my two daughters play lax in HS that there’s no question that getting hit in the head by a stick or errant pass is alarmingly routine in games.
Yet in discussing this issue with my daughters, they both felt strongly that protective headgear in lax would be a mistake – that it’s just not needed, and that it would indeed make the game much more aggressive as players would take more liberties in attacking opponents on the run and using their sticks.
Remember that traditionally, girls lax has been considered a non-contact sport. To me, though, and perhaps you share my views, I have never believed girls lax to be a non-contact sport. And if you have even seen a HS girls lax game recently, I’m sure you feel the same way. It is hardly a non-contact sport, and the fact that the girls do have to wear mouth guards and eye goggles and carry sticks and throw around a heavy hard rubber ball makes it a dangerous activity.
So where do we go from here? For starters, both in girls soccer and lax, more than ever it’s incumbent on parents and coaches to make sure that kids are well taught about how to head a soccer ball, and how to play a competitive game but not doing so in a physical manner. Same goes for lax. Learn how to use the lax stick as a tool, but not as a weapon. Learn how to control the ball and learn how to pass it correctly.
No, sadly, concussions are not going away. But we really do need to adopt protective measures at the youth level to make sure our daughters are protected.