Posts Tagged ‘youth sports concussions’

Soccer-related concussions

Research looks at player collisions vs heading the ball

While the concussion hype focuses primarily around football, there’s also a lot of discussion about soccer-related head injuries. The soccer concussion debate centers around the question of whether or not a ban in youth soccer on heading the ball and other rule changes would impact the number of head injuries, particularly concussions.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Pediatrics shows that physical contact between players is the most common cause of soccer concussions. In that case, a change in soccer rules about using the head to hit the ball would likely have little effect on concussion rates.

This results of the study conducted by the Colorado School of Public Health were based on data collected from 100 high schools between 2005 and 2014. Researchers documented 627 concussions among girls and 442 among boys, which aligns with past findings that soccer is the second-leading cause of concussions for female high-school athletes and the fifth for boys.

Differing views

Better rule enforcement and continual re-emphasis on the technical skills of passing and dribbling make the game safer, according to the study’s author, Sarah Fields, an associate professor at the University of Colorado-Denver.  FIFA rules only allow for shoulder-to-shoulder contact among players, which Fields thinks should be more strictly enforced.

Not everyone thinks that minimizing rough play is the answer. One of those is Dr. Robert Cantu, a neurology professor at Boston University School of Medicine. Cantu says that most injuries to soccer players under his care that took place when heading the ball didn’t occur during intentionally rough plays. Instead, players were intent on heading the ball and collided with other players intent on the same thing or who got in the way.

While Cantu does not support eliminating heading the ball in soccer, he does recommend banning it for players under the age of 14, stating that’s the age level at most risk for concussion.

Another point in the ongoing debate is that even shoulder level contact can result in concussive forces, whether through direct contact or when a player subsequently hits the ground.

The number of football-related deaths and serious head injuries among high school players in recent years resulted in the concussion laws for all sports being enacted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

We encourage further reading of our articles on concussions.

Source: Amrith  Ramkumar, “Injury study spurs debate on soccer-related concussions.” 31 July 2015.

State Concussion Laws

Review of 51 laws highlights protection gaps

The NFL helped bring about the most positive concussion news in recent years by helping all 50 states and the District of Columbia to pass laws aimed at protecting youth athletes from head injuries. But many are now asking if those laws carry enough weight.

Concussion laws

A recent review by the Associated Press of the 51 concussion laws found that approximately 33 percent made no reference to any ages or grade levels covered. Even fewer make explicit reference to both interscholastic sports and recreation leagues. Some state laws clearly cover public and private schools, some only reference public schools, and others lack any such wording. And any mention of penalties for non-compliant schools and leagues is absent in nearly all.

Missing the mark of the original goal

Washington state passed the first concussion law in 2009. That law calls for coach education on concussion symptoms, removing players from games for suspected head injuries,  return-to-play clearance, and required parent/player signed concussion information forms.

The AP review found that only 21 of the laws include all four of the required components in Washington’s bill, which served as the  model for other states’ legislation. Laws in only 34 states mandate return to play/practice only upon written clearance by a health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions. And only 30 require concussion information forms be signed by athletes and their parent/guardian.

Headline media coverage of concussion issues resulted in states passing concussion laws quickly. However, concerns about the cost of enforcing the laws resulted in many being ultimately weaker than originally intended, according to Jay Rodne, a Washington state representative who sponsored the original bill.

Where things stand

The NFL admits that in some states compromises were made in some states to get laws on the books. This resulted in “A ‘B’-level law, as opposed to an ‘A’-level law,” according to Jeff Miller of the  NFL’s health and safety policy. It’s always possible to go back and amend the laws, said Miller. He points out that the passage of these laws has resulted in a growing awareness of concussion safety protocols and risk management among players, parents, coaches, and team/league administrators and concussion treatment.

We invite you to read more of our articles on concussion risk management and research.

Source:  Howard Fendrich and Eddie Pells, “Youth Concussion Laws Pushed By NFL Are Not Enough.” 28 Jan. 2015.

Increase in High School Football Participation

Concussion education and laws helping to boost the numbers

In previous posts we’ve discussed the impact media attention on concussions may have on the future of youth football.  Some people have gloomily predicted an end to the sport. However, after a five-year nationwide decline in high school football participation, an increase in 2013 has been reported by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Educating parents and coaches on concussion diagnosis and return to play and new concussion laws being enacted in every state and the District of Columbia have no doubt played a significant role in the increase.  During the 2013-14 school year, there were 6,607 more boys and 184 more girls participating in football over the previous year.

Parents are apparently measuring benefits of participating with the chances of an injury and deciding that the precautions now in place have lowered the risk of injury to an acceptable level, according to Davis Whitfield, the N.C. High School Athletic Association commissioner.  The NFSHS enacted several rule changes, such as where players line up on kickoffs and anyone losing a helmet during play is rConcussions in youth sportsequired to leave and not return until it has been properly secured. And many state associations have limited the amount of contact in practices.

Ongoing concerns

Despite the growing awareness and positive changes in protocols, not all the news is good. Four high school football players died during the 2013 season from head injuries. And several high profile former NFL players have expressed concerns about having their own children play football.

In North Carolina, the deaths of two high school players in 2008 were the impetus for passing the Gfeller-Waller Concussion Awareness Act. That state law says that all public middle and high schools must provide concussion education to coaches, parents and players, develop emergency action plans, and to have post-concussion protocol in place to be followed as to when players with suspected injuries can resume play or practice.

However, violations of the law are occurring, but there are no penalties attached to it. An state audit of the found that high schools in 13 of the state’s 115 districts weren’t in compliance, most for not posting emergency action plans. There’s no reason to think other states aren’t experiencing similar violation issues.

The NCHSAA is proposing fines and other penalties for non-compliance. The commissioner cited violating return-to-play protocol could carry a fine and failure to get a parental concussion education form signed would mean the player is ineligible to play.

Looking ahead

Only 13 states have concussion laws covering all youth sports, while most cover just high school and middle school athletics.  Advocates of stronger protocols say that expanding concussion laws to include any youth teams and leagues using public fields should be the standard for all states.

Please see our other articles on concussion risks, research and prevention.

Source: Tim Stevens, “Participation in high school football increases despite concussion risk,” 03 Jan. 2015

Concussions among girl soccer players

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 Girls heading ballplayer 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.

More information on concussions and risk management are available on the Sadler Sports Insurance website.

Source: Kathleen Doheny, “Concussions Common in Middle School.”  Healthday. 20 Jan 2014.

New Helmet Offers More Protection

Start-up company claims it outperforms the competition

New  football helmet manufacturer SG Helmets claims that recent laboratory impact testing indicates that its youth football helmet SG Helmet technologyoutperforms the leading industry competitor by a margin greater than 2 to 1. This is timely information since concussions are the leading concern in youth tackle football at the present time. SGH claims that its youth football helmet weighs slightly over one pound (leading competitor’s helmet weights over three pounds) and that its space age inner liner absorbs more shock. The technology used by SGH comes from its prior experience in manufacturing helmets for NASCAR. Test results are available on the SGH website.

These results are impressive, but additional field testing should be conducted. Should the results be confirmed in the field, this would be a huge positive to General Liability carriers that insure sports organizations.