Posts Tagged ‘soccer’

Teenage Concussions: When In Doubt, Sit it Out

Teenage boys who play football suffer more concussions than any other high school athletes, but girls who play soccer and basketball, and boys who wrestle, play ice hockey or lacrosse also are at risk of head injury.

Nearly half (47%) of concussions among high school athletes happen on the football field, according to a new study published in the January issue of American Journal of Sports Medicine.

This data comes from a large, national sample of US high schools who reported injury data for 20 sports during the 2008-2010 academic years.

“Although interest in sports-related concussions is usually focused on full-contact sports like football and ice hockey, concussions occur across a wide variety of high school sports,” conclude the authors from the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, led by researcher Natalie McIlvain.

Most of the head injuries happened when players collided with each other, but even some children in non-contact sports, such as softball, gymnastics, cheerleading and swimming, suffered blows to the head.

Girls having a 70% higher concussion rate than boys in “gender-comparable” sports.

It’s not clear why, but it may have to do with lesser neck strength among girls, said Christy Collins, a senior research associate at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

“The real danger is returning to play too soon,” Collins says.

To prevent concussions, young athletes should learn to play by the rules of the game and be in good physical shape when they start playing, writes Jane Gillett, MD, in Brainline

“Someone who is unable to keep up with the pace of the game is more likely to get hurt,” writes Gillett.

“And practicing the skills of the game in a non-competitive manner through drills and structured workouts help athletes hone the necessary skills like being aware of where others are in play, where the ball is, and ways to improve balance, mobility, and hand/eye coordination.

Another important component is to teach your young athlete sportsmanship.

That means not to take things said or done as a personal attack and not to respond to an aggressive act by becoming more aggressive themselves.

Being a role model in ‘turning the other cheek’ will help demonstrate this behavior.”

The coach should also be aware of the signs and symptoms of a concussion — being dazed, confused, stunned, or even experiencing a brief loss of consciousness, according to Gillett.

Other symptoms include headache, dizziness, and transitory memory loss of the event or of events earlier that day.

“The coach should then keep the player out of the game and future games until the effects of the concussion are truly gone … and only with an official doctor’s note of approval,” writes Gillett.

“For players, coaches, and parents, the philosophy to remember is: when in doubt, sit it out.”

Heading Soccer Balls May Lead to Brain Damage

Repeatedly heading a soccer ball, even just a few times a day, may lead to brain damage.

That’s the result of a new study presented today by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.

The New York researchers used an advanced MRI-based imaging technique to scan the brains of 38 amateur soccer players, average age 30, who had all played soccer since they were kids.

The researchers compared the images to the number of times the players had headed the ball during the past year.

They found that players who headed the ball frequently showed brain injury similar to that seen in patients with concussion, also known as mild traumatic brain injury, or TBI.

The threshold for “significant injury” seemed to be in those players who exceeded 1,000 to 1,500 headers a year.

“While heading a ball 1,000 or 1,500 times a year may seem high to those who don’t participate in the sport, it only amounts to a few times a day for a regular player,” said lead author Michael Lipton, MD, PhD, associate director of Einstein’s Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center and medical director of MRI services at Montefiore.

“Heading a soccer ball is not an impact of a magnitude that will lacerate nerve fibers in the brain.

But repetitive heading may set off a cascade of responses that can lead to degeneration of brain cells.”

In a related study, researchers found that players who headed a ball most frequently performed worse on tests of verbal memory and psychomotor speed, a measure of hand-eye coordination.

“These two studies present compelling evidence that brain injury and cognitive impairment can result from heading a soccer ball with high frequency,” Dr. Lipton said.

With increasing awareness of the dangers of concussions in youth football and hockey, more soccer research may lead to the establishment of heading guidelines, similar to the pitch count limitations now in effect for youth baseball players.

“We, including the agencies that supervise and encourage soccer play, need to do the further research to precisely define the impact of excessive heading on children and adults in order to develop parameters within which soccer play will be safe over the long term,” said Dr. Lipton.

Warm-up Exercises Reduce Sports Injuries in Teenage Athletes

Special neuromuscular warm-up exercises done before soccer and basketball practices can help teenage female athletes reduce their number of leg injuries.

Almost 1 million teenage girls play high school soccer and basketball each year.

But an estimated 1 out of 3 sustains a soccer- or basketball-related sports injury.

Knee injuries are the most common cause of permanent disability in female high school basketball players, accounting for up to 91% of season-ending injuries and 94% of injuries requiring surgery, according to researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago.

They invited 258 coaches from Chicago Public Schools to participate in a study to see whether a specialized warm-up program could reduce lower extremity injuries.

Overall, 90 coaches and 1,492 athletes, predominantly from low-income, urban populations, participated in the study, which was reported in the November issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Coaches in the intervention group attended a 2-hour training session 2 weeks prior to the start of the 2006-2007 season.

After learning how to implement a 20-minute neuromuscular warm-up before team practices and a shorter pregame version, the coaches in the intervention group used the prescribed warm-up before an average of 80% of practices.

The control coaches stuck to their standard warm-up protocol, including no warm-up exercises and having athletes jog or warm up on their own.

The results show that athletes in the intervention group had about half as many lower extremity injuries (50) as those in the control group (96).

And those in the neuromuscular warm-up group had a 34% decrease in non-contact ankle sprains as compared to the control group.

The neuromuscular training program combined progressive strengthening with plyometric, balance, and agility exercises.

Coaches instructed the female athletes on how to land softly, without excessive side-to-side movement and with flexed hips and knees.

One outstanding question is whether coaches will continue to implement this warm-up consistently for several seasons, or whether retraining will be needed.

I’ve got a personal interest since my 14-year-old daughter Sarah just finished her first season as a starter on the varsity soccer team, and began basketball practice yesterday.

I plan to send the school’s athletic director the results of this study and a PDF of a similar type of training program that has been shown to enhance performance and prevent injuries.