New study banning headers only part of stopping concussions

This article is from USA Today. Here are some key highlights:

New study banning headers only part of stopping concussions

Coinciding with the women’s World Cup, a group of concussion experts teamed with Chastain and other women soccer players to make a big public push for the Safer Soccer initiative. They cited a study that tracked 59 concussions suffered by junior-high girls in Washington State and concluded that about 30 percent of those injuries could be eliminated if heading were banned. That extrapolates to a potential of around 100,000 concussions avoided over a three-year period.

“It’s very important to understand where we are, and we are not talking about the high school level,” said Robert Cantu, one of the country’s leading concussion experts, who helped spearhead the Safer Soccer project. “We’re not asking for heading to be taken out at the high school level. She thinks a greater good could be achieved by taking rough play out, altogether.”

Among the authors’ concerns is that the ban could lead to a different set of injuries as players move differently to avoid contacting the ball with their head.

And they wondered about the 14-year-old cutoff point, which is a common dividing point for youth leagues: “I don’t see how banning heading for a 12-year-old makes a 15-year-old any safer,” said one of the authors, Sarah Fields, who studies sports in American culture.

Cantu conceded there was no perfect cut-off point. He said the ages 8 to 14 are when the brain is most vulnerable and when much of the most important brain growth occurs.

For years, Comstock and her co-authors have been leaders in the study and prevention of concussions in many sports, though this latest paper seems to put them on opposite sides from the Safer Soccer leaders.

Comstock insists that isn’t exactly the case.

“It does seem logical to say, ‘If most concussions occur during heading, let’s stop heading,'” she said. “I understand the movement. But we have more data and we can look at this in more detail.”


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