Soccer Players Who 'Head' Ball May Lose Theirs

If your son (daughter) is like mine, he loves to play soccer. But a disturbing new report is finding that it's every bit as dangerous as football when it comes to your head.

According to a story at newswise.com, researchers have found that "soccer players who frequently head the ball have brain abnormalities resembling those found in patients with concussion (mild traumatic brain injury)."

The researchers studied soccer because it's the most popular sport in the world.  “Soccer is widely played by people of all ages and there is concern that heading the ball—a key component of the sport—might damage the brain," newswise.com quoted Michael L. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., associate director of Einstein’s Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center and medical director of MRI services at Montefiore, the University Hospital and academic medical center for Einstein, who led the study.

Soccer players "head" the ball six to 12 times during games, where balls can travel at speeds of more than 50 miles per hour, according to the story.  "During practice drills, players commonly head the ball 30 or more times. The impact from a single heading is unlikely to cause traumatic brain damage such as laceration of nerve fibers. But scientists have worried that cumulative damage from heading’s repeated subconcussive impacts might be clinically significant," newswise.com reported.

“Repetitive heading could set off a cascade of responses that leads to degeneration of brain cells over time,” Dr. Lipton said in the story.

The study revealed some ominous facts for soccer players and their families. “Our study provides compelling preliminary evidence that brain changes resembling mild traumatic brain injury are associated with frequently heading a soccer ball over many years,” Dr. Lipton told newswise.com. He said it would seem that "controlling the amount of heading that people do may help prevent brain injury that frequent heading appears to cause.”

So how do you get your kids to stop doing it when that's probably one of the most fun parts of the game (other than scoring, of course!)?  They're too young to understand about the professional football players who were hit in the head many times, resulting in numerous concussions, now developing Alzheimer's.  Or that somewhere down the line, being unable to remember facts on tests could cause their grades to plummet, endangering their futures.

A language arts teacher at my son's school was involved in a car accident in which he was almost killed and suffered a severe concussion, unknown at the time while his other critical injuries were treated. But over time, he realized he could no longer write and had trouble summoning up in his brain what he wanted to say.

Thankfully, it passed.  But imagine this happening to your child over and over.  He may not be as lucky. 



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