Kick Concussions Away
By Anthony P. Kontos, PhD., Research Director/Associate Professor,
UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program
Soccer is the world’s most popular sport and according to the U.S. Youth Soccer Association, there are over 3 million registered youth players in the U.S. alone.1
Generally, soccer is a safe sport, but like any contact sport, players may sustain injuries ranging from ankle sprains and contusions to serious knee injuries and fractures. Soccer players are also at risk for concussions. In fact, it is estimated that 50,000 high school soccer players nationwide have a concussion each year.2 Among female players, soccer has one of the highest risks for concussion of any sport.3
Soccer Concussion Injuries
Most concussions in soccer are a result of collisions with other players or the goal post, falls, or from head-to-head contact when trying to head the ball.4 Occasionally, players are concussed when a ball strikes them in the head. However, it is important to note that purposeful heading of the soccer ball rarely results in a concussion, and when it does, it is usually because a player was not ready for the header or used improper heading technique.
Ways to Minimize Risk and Effects of Concussion in Soccer
Some ways to minimize the risk and effects of concussion in soccer include:
- Using proper heading technique.
- Being aware of the surroundings —location of goal posts, other players, and the ball.
- Making sure soccer balls are properly inflated and are the appropriate size for the player’s age.
- Immediately removing a player from the game or practice if a concussion is suspected.
- Never returning a player to a game or practice on the same day as a suspected concussion.
- Always having a player with a suspected concussion evaluated by a trained medical professional with expertise in concussion.
Although we cannot prevent concussions in soccer or any sport, we can minimize the effects of these injuries through proper education, identification, and clinical management. With proper management, concussed soccer players can experience a full recovery and return successfully to the field.
1 U.S. Youth Soccer Association, 2014: http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/media_kit/keystatistics/
2 Gessel et al., Journal of Athletic Training, 2007.
3 Marar et al., American Journal of Sports Medicine, 2012.
4 O’Kane et al., JAMA Pediatrics, 2014.