Heading the Ball? Understand the Risks!
Soccer is the world's most popular sport and for good reason: lots of action, passionate players, and fancy footwork. Great soccer moves also include heading the ball, which new research is showing can be dangerous. Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have looked at repetitive heading of a soccer ball and observed similar effects as concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries.
Medical News Today has recently highlighted these studies and what they used to look at the brain abnormalities from playing soccer--you can read their full article here.
Of course, if a soccer player uses their head once or twice, there may be no effects at all. Though many players use their head multiple times each game and dozens of times during practice.
"Repetitive heading could set off a cascade of responses that leads to degeneration of brain cells over time," noted Dr. Lipton.
As with any sport, repetitive head injuries of any kind, including concussions, can lead to serious consequences.
Centers for Disease Control lists these symptoms for concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries on their site at http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/index.html:
Thinking/Remembering: Difficulty thinking clearly, feeling slow, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty remembering new information.
Physical: Headache, fuzzy or blurred vision, Dizziness, nausea or vomiting, balance problems, sensitivity to noise or light, feeling tired, having no energy.
Emotional: Irritability, sadness, more emotional than normal, nervousness or anxiety.
Sleep: Sleeping more than usual or less than usual, trouble falling asleep.
About 75% of TBIs that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild TBI.
Repeated mild TBIs that happen over an extended period of time (i.e., months, years) can result in cumulative neurological and cognitive deficits. Repeated mild TBIs occurring within a short period of time (i.e., hours, days, or weeks) can be catastrophic or fatal. The CDC has a great fact sheet here with more information about concussions and TBI.
As fun and physically necessary as sports are, it is also important to understand the risks involved and balance recreation and health. Stay safe and have fun!