Why are girls more vulnerable?
Middle school girl soccer players suffer more concussions than girls in high school and college. Researchers say incorrect heading techniques and the young girls’ less developed brains and neck muscles are likely contributors to the rate of concussions.
What’s adding to the problem
A recent study found 59 concussions among 351 girls aged 11 to 14. Participants in the study complained of dizziness, headaches, inability to concentrate and being drowsy. Exacerbating the problem is that many continue to play despite their symptoms, risking a second injury.
Despite the experts advising that players not return to practice or games until symptoms disappear, 58 percent of the players in the study continued to play even with symptoms persisting, according to the study’s co-author Melissa Schiff, professor of epidemiology.
The same study found that heading the ball was the cause of 30 percent of the players’ concussions and more than 50 percent were the result of player collisions.
Looking to lower the numbers
The rate head injuries among young girls linked to heading the ball doesn’t surprise John Kuluz of Miami Children’s Hospital.
“I see it all the time,” he said. Kuluz’s advice: athletes who have suffered a concussion should avoid heading the ball.
Oddly enough, concussions resulted 23 times more frequently in games than during practice. Should heading the ball be banned to reduce the number of head injuries? Some suggest that middle school athletes should be taught proper heading technique in practice but prohibit its use in play until high school.
The study was published in the Jan 2014 online issue of JAMA Pediatrics.