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Girls soccer players susceptible to concussions

By Rhiannon Walker, Staff Writer, Published: June 25, 2013

— For the past six days, Edmond has played host to the US Youth Soccer Region III Championships.

An estimated 208 teams and 3,600 athletes from 11 states participated in the weeklong event. In the first five days of competition, a variety of injuries were sustained including torn ACLs, broken bones and  lacerations.

While the majority of players will leave the Region III Championships simply empty-handed, a number of players not only left without the trophy, but they also left Edmond concussed.

“We've seen quite a few concussions, probably at least 15 to 20 concussions,” Sports Medicine Director Joe Waldron said. “I would say (that number) is about average. … I have seen quite a few girls wearing head gear. I would say there's probably equal amounts, maybe actually more girls wearing it in the soccer that I've covered.”

While Waldron said the number of boys and girls he evaluated for concussions was equal this week, studies have shown that girls may be more prone to concussions. Women have smaller heads and less developed neck muscles than men, which may put girls at a disadvantage when they absorb the impact from heading a ball.

In 2012, the National High School Sports Related Injury Surveillance Study stated there were 92,171 reported concussions in high school soccer for the 2011-2012 school year. And among high school athletes, football players sustain the highest number of brain injuries, while girls' soccer players have the second highest the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

“I think the girls' has something to do with the training on heading the ball,” Waldron said. “The girls don't like to head the ball, and so they're not trained properly. They always seem to flinch at the last second and absorb it in a different way than the guy does. And that I think has a lot to do with it.”

A person who sustains a concussion may experience headaches, dizziness, fatigue, drowsiness, visual and/or balance problems. More severe symptoms may include slurred speech, seizures and neck pain.

In soccer, most concussions are suffered when players have head-on collisions, their head hits the limb of another player or they fall on the ground head first. Studies are beginning to show, however, that “headers” are another contributor to head trauma for players and that repeated non-concussive blows can actually lead to full-blown concussions.

“First thing is, you remove them from play,” Waldron said of a concussed player. “You have to do a thorough exam of them. Doing neuro-cognitive, memorization, all kinds of different kinds of test just to make sure where we are in terms of consciousness (and) concussion. We don't allow them to return to play if they're not capable. And then once we've determined if they are able to return to play, we assess them for a little longer to make sure they don't start to regress.”

In 2012, Dr. Inga Katharina Koerte had a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that reported soccer players who repeatedly hit the ball with their heads may cause damage to their brains.

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*Girls playing high school soccer suffer concussions 68 percent more often than boys playing the same sport (Winter 2007-2008 edition of Journal of Athletic Training)

*Girls appear more susceptible to concussions in sports like soccer and basketball than boys (Winter 2007-2008 edition of Journal of Athletic Training)

*One study of collegiate soccer players found that females had 26 percent less total mass in their head and neck than males

*Roughly 40 percent of soccer concussions are the result of collisions between players. (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission)

*Approximately 13 percent are due to headers. (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission)

*Female soccer players are twice as likely to get concussed as males. (British Journal of Sports Medicine)

*Players not wearing protective soccer headgear were 2.65 times more likely to suffer a concussion than those who did, and the frequency of lacerations, contusions and abrasions was reduced in players wearing headgear. (Scott Delaney of McGill University)



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