by Heather Vecchioni | Contributing Writer
Football, soccer, cheerleading and gymnastics are some of the most popular sports among youth. Unfortunately, they are also some of the most dangerous.
Each year in the United States, about 2 million children and teenagers experience concussions from participating in sports—and many aren’t seen for treatment.
For males, football is the leading sport for concussions but for females it’s soccer, according to an 11-year study conducted by MedStar Sports Health.
Because of the prevalence of head injuries in soccer, US Soccer—the governing body for soccer in the United States—implemented new rules regarding its position on youth athletes “heading” the ball, or hitting it with their heads.
In 2015, the organization banned heading for players younger than 10 and ordered coaches to limit the technique to players between 10 and 13 years of age. Soccer clubs nationwide, including Brooklyn Park Youth Athletic Association, are adhering to the new rules.
“Our organization doesn’t allow heading in any of our games or practices for that age group. It is thought by some that this will put USA soccer players behind other soccer players in the world by not practicing this skill until that age,” said Matt Hubbard, BPYAA president and commissioner.
“However, safety is our first concern.”
This new rule emerged around the time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that sports-related concussions among youth athletes increased by 60 percent over the last decade.
Younger athletes are prone to this injury because their neck muscles are usually weak in relation to their disproportionately larger heads. Additionally, their brain nerve cells and their corresponding connections don’t have as much coating and insulation as adult brains, which puts them at risk.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells. In soccer, this can happen from heading the ball, colliding with the goal post or another player, or the head making contact with the ground.