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Is Heading the Ball More Dangerous in Soccer for Women?

August 21, 2018, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

New reports have highlighted the dangers in sport for concussion and TBI. Soccer has come under scrutiny now. New reports have also determined that men and women have different susceptibilities to brain damage and exhibit differing symptoms with differing prognosis to similar impact forces. Brain injury advocates in England are now pushing for a total ban of heading the ball in children’s soccer.

A new study now suggests that female soccer players are more susceptible to brain injury when heading the ball in soccer than males.

In a sport which does not allow the use of hands, feet, the chest and the head are the primary ways to propel the ball. Heading is a skill taught from an early age and is often practiced intensely by players. Until recently no one considered the repetitive forces could be causing concussions and long-term brain damage in players. The recent study released in Radiology looked at amateur soccer players that headed balls frequently. The study included 49 men and 49 women aged 18-50. It used MRI imaging of brains. Comparisons were made between male and female players with similar age and other characteristics including the frequency with which they headed balls.

What they found was that women’s white matter (the thread like axon nerve fibers connecting neurons and their myelin) there seemed to be a greater sensitivity to the repetitive forces of heading. The research found that these ‘sub concussive injuries’ did not cause immediate symptoms for the player, but the long term cumulative damage could become problematic. Women’s brain tissue reacts differently to male’s tissues. What we don’t know is why this is.

Some researchers feel that it may have to do with differential neck strength and smaller head size. There is no conclusive reason though.

While the researchers aren’t ready to say that heading the ball is a bad idea, they do say that the data indicates consistently that the repeated impact of heading the ball can become a problem much more quickly for women then men. More research needs to be done to determine how much heading is too much.

You can read the whole article “MRI-defined White Matter Microstructural Alteration Associated with Soccer Heading Is More Extensive in Women than Men”, Todd G. Rubin*, Eva Catenaccio*, Roman Fleysher, Liane E. Hunter, Naomi Lubin, Walter F. Stewart, Mimi Kim, Richard B. Lipton, Michael L. Lipton in Radiology.

The researchers also strongly encourage people to be physically active throughout life as it is crucial to good brain health to maintain a healthy active lifestyle.

 

 

Posted under Brain Injury, Concussion Syndrome, traumatic brain injury

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