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Soccer Players Who ‘Head’ The Ball May Be At Risk For Brain Injury

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Jessica Kartalija joined the Eyewitness News team during the summer of...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Turns out getting your head in the game may not be such a good thing.

Jessica Kartalija reports soccer players who “head” the ball may be putting their brain at serious risk.

More than 250 million people play soccer worldwide. Now a new study finds players who “head” the ball most frequently had damage in the brain areas similar to people suffering from a concussion.

Sinai Hospital’s Dr. Kevin Crutchfield is a nationally recognized expert on sports-related head injuries.

“The brain is getting rattled around multiple times. It also makes sense that if you are heading the ball multiple times a year, you may not be doing it properly all the time,” Crutchfield said.

Just like NFL players get concussions, soccer players who said they “head” the ball most frequently showed damage to the region of the brain responsible for cognitive function, including attention, memory and mobility.

“It pretty much reiterates what we are learning from football: when you have a repeated number of hits, there may be a cumulative effect over time,” Crutchfield said.

It’s similar to what Abby Cahalen experienced when she was injured playing soccer.

“It was a lot of pressure,” she said.

Cahalen had to go through years of exercise and vision therapy, time she used to spend playing soccer.

“I never thought anything would happen to me. I never thought anything would make me stop playing. It was like my life,” Cahalen said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says there isn’t enough research saying players should stop “heading” the ball altogether, but they recommend minimizing contact, if possible.

Changes in the brain were found in players who headed the ball as much as 1,500 times a year, which amounts to a few times a day.

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