Contact with another player was the most common way boys and girls suffered concussions in a study of U.S. high school soccer players, while heading the ball was the most common soccer-specific activity during which about one-third of boys’ concussions and one-quarter of girls’ concussions occurred.

PT_news-01An article detailing the findings was published July 13 on the website of JAMA Pediatrics.

Soccer’s popularity has increased in the U.S. during the past three decades. In 1969-70, there were 2,217 schools that fielded 49,593 boys soccer players and no girls soccer players compared to 2013-14 when 11,718 schools fielded 417,419 boys soccer players and 11,354 schools fielded 375,564 girls soccer players.

For the study, R. Dawn Comstock, PhD, of the Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, and colleagues analyzed data collected from 2005-06 through 2013-14 in a large nationally representative sample of U.S. high schools. The data tracked players on boys and girls soccer teams.

Researchers looked at trends in concussions over time and identified the mechanisms of concussion and the soccer-specific activities during which most concussions occurred. One athlete exposure was defined as one high school athlete participating in one school-sanctioned soccer practice or competition.

Overall, the authors found in girls soccer that 627 concussions occurred during 1,393,753 athlete exposures for a rate of 4.5 concussions per 10,000 AEs. In boys soccer, findings showed there were 442 concussions during 1,592,238 AEs for a rate of 2.78 concussions per 10,000 AEs.

Other findings were:

  • For boys (68.8%) and girls (51.3%), player-player contact was the most common way concussions were suffered.
  • Heading was the soccer-specific activity during which almost one-third of boys’ concussions (30.6%) and just more than one-quarter of girls’ concussions (25.3%) occurred.
  • Contact with another player was the most common mechanism of heading-related concussions among boys (78.1%) and girls (61.9%).

The authors noted soccer has been allowed to become a more physical sport during the years, with more athlete-athlete contact occurring.

“Banning heading is unlikely to eliminate athlete-athlete contact or the resultant injuries,” the authors wrote. “Athlete-athlete contact was the most common mechanism of all concussions among boys (68.8%) and girls (51.3%) regardless of the soccer-specific activity during which the injury occurred. These trends are consistent with prior literature. Therefore, we postulate that banning heading from soccer will have limited effectiveness as a primary prevention mechanism (i.e. in preventing concussion injuries) unless such a ban is combined with concurrent efforts to reduce athlete-athlete contact throughout the game.”

The study was funded in part by the CDC. Other support came from the National Federation of State High School Associations, National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, DonJoy Orthotics and EyeBlack.

Study abstract: http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?doi=10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.1062