Although high school football and hockey have long been raising concern and spurring legislation due to their high incidences of concussions, a less-suspecting sport is now starting to make headlines for the risks it poses to young athletes -- it's girls' soccer.
Football is the number-one athletic activity with the most concussions, but soccer comes in at a close second. The sport has seen a whopping 58 percent increase in cases of pediatric concussions in the past decade. The reason? Often, these injuries are the result of an an athlete 'heading' the soccer ball, or aggressively hitting it off the top of the head. The impact of this action can lead to concussions and, when performed in excess, even brain damage.
Another unsettling reality is that female soccer players are experiencing nearly twice as many concussions as their male counterparts, according to a recent study by the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
“What’s happening in this country is an epidemic of concussions, number one, and the realization that many of these individuals are going to go on to post-concussion syndrome, which can alter their ability to function at a high level for the rest of their lives,” Dr. Bob Cantu, director of sports medicine at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts, said in an interview with NBC.
Dr. Bob Cantu even told NBC that heading the ball should be banned from the sport because it is such a common cause of concussions.
And in more bad news for girls' soccer players, another recent study found that both female athletes and high school athletes require more time to fully recover from concussions than athletes who are male or in college. Researchers at Michigan State University determined that female athletes complained of more concussion symptoms than male athletes (such as dizziness, nausea and confusion) and also scored lower on visual memory tests.
In response to these mounting concerns, concussion laws have been enacted in over 30 states and counting to protect young athletes from the potentially long-standing effects of brain injuries.
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