Koerte examined a dozen German professional soccer players' brain scans and found a pattern of damage to their brains that strongly resembled the brains of patients with mild traumatic brain injury.
Her team used diffusion tensor imaging, a high-resolution MRI technique, and observed that the white matter, or interior portion of the brain that carries signals from nerve cells to the spinal cord, had suffered damage and could not restrict the movement of water molecules within the brain tissue.
Neurologist Anne Sereno had a new study published in February where she compared the response time of 12 female varsity soccer players after practice to 12 female non-contact sports athletes.
Her research showed the soccer players displayed a 30-to-50-millisecond change in response time, which is in line with mild traumatic brain injury.
“There's been a lot of studies done on it,” Waldron said. “They're really starting to see a lot of things from athletes in the past. You're seeing the long-term effects of it: the brain damage, depression, dementia, the long lasting effects they weren't able to see in the past.”
Athletes can be proactive in lowering their chances of sustaining a concussion, however. To decrease the likeliness of future concussions, soccer players can wear head guards.
Full 90 Sports, Inc., which manufactures the Full 90 Performance Headguard, is the largest global producer of head guards. Premier League goalie Petr Cech of the Chelsea Football Club is the most famous soccer player to sport the gear.
Full 90 Performance Headguard complies with FIFA, US Soccer and the National Federation of State High School Associations regulations.
Scott Delaney of McGill University, reported that players not wearing protective soccer headgear were 2.65 times more likely to suffer a concussion than those who did, but Dr. Waldron explained there is still no scientifically proven way to prevent concussions.
“I don’t think (head gear) can prevent it,” the 43-year-old said. “I think it can, in a way, cut down on some of the impact that the head absorbs. I think if you get hit hard enough, your brain being a gelatinous mass is going to shift in the skull, and you’re going to have issues with that.“ (Coaches) have a large influence on (players). A lot of kids feel like if their coach won’t support them if they think they have concussion or think they’re being a baby, then they won’t tell the coach. That becomes an issue, because when the coach doesn’t know, we don’t know either as athletic trainers, and those kids are playing out there, putting themselves at risk. ...The coaches have to realize and let the kids know it’s OK to tell me when you’re hurt.”
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CONCUSSIONS BY THE NUMBERS
*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)