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Brain Injury: Heads Up on Soccer

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New Focus on Soccer and Brain Injury

In our recent posts, we shared information about the most common causes of brain injury. These include, falls, motor vehicle accidents and sports injuries. More and more information and research is being published on the most publicized issue with sports and brain injury — those injuries suffered by NFL players. This important work has shed new light on the incidence in professional football players of what is called chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. CTE is now considered a major risk for these athletes, in varying degrees. Depending on the position played, CTE is a degenerative brain disease which is caused by many hits to the head over time. For example, those players in more heavy contact positions have more evidence of this disease than a kicker.

A recent article in Wired magazine exposes concussion concerns the other sport that is now played by millions of kids across America, soccer. There was was a time when “English football” was relatively unknown in our country. But now, most kids are exposed to soccer and play it from the time they are very small children often into adulthood. Its a great game and it gets our kids outside and running, which is wonderful exercise. But soccer also can result in head impact both through player contact and heading the ball and in soccer there are no helmets.

Lawsuit Forces Rule Changes for Kids

Many parents may not be aware that the United States Soccer Federation settled a proposed class-action lawsuit which sought significant changes to the use of heading the ball in young players and other related issues. The incidence of concussion in high school soccer is greater than many other sports combined, excluding football. The changes made after the lawsuit was filed, apply to teams that are under the control of the US Soccer Federation, but not all teams. Kids under 10 are not permitted to head the ball. And those between the ages of 11 to 13 may not head the ball in practice. The purpose of these regulations is to limit the exposure to head injuries for younger kids. The use of substitutions in play was also modified so that a kid who may have suffered a concussion can be observed before returning to the field.

Other brain injury lawsuits have been filed in recent years by professional soccer players who have suffered the long term affects of head impact and field play. Last summer, a professional player who was struck in the temple by another player in an altercation, claimed that his head injury forced his retirement.

Soccer Brain Injury Research Continues

A New York soccer and brain health research study of a large group of recreational soccer players is underway. In this study, researchers are taking brain scans and administering brain games to follow players cognitive status. This research is intended to help determine the long term progression of these players and concussion. Research is also seeking to identify CTE in blood or other biomarkers, since currently the only way to diagnose this disease is post-mortem autopsy.

The medical research is continuing, but the concern is that even with kids who play soccer into their high school and adult years, concussion can lead to depression, mental health issues and later in life, dementia. The connection between concussion and CTE is not the only potential problem. There is growing concern that less intense “sub-concussive” hits experienced in soccer and in football for that matter, may also be a cause of CTE. Researchers are interested in learning more about how these can cause long term issues. We look forward to bringing this information to our readers.

Scholle Law is pleased to bring attention to brain injuries, their causes and research. As personal injury lawyers, we deal with the impact of these injuries from one of the leading causes of brain injury, motor vehicle accidents. Often those who have suffered a concussion are unaware of their injury. Seeking professional advice after an accident or injury about the potential medical and legal issues can help in the recovery process.