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

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.

More from Jessica Kartalija
  • Stupidity Rules

    Well it takes a sports medicine specialist to state the obvious. Go figure, when you use your head as a battering ram there is a chance of concussion or worse. Use common sense, if there is any available, not to use your head as you would a baseball bat.

  • Stupidity Rules

    I would venture to say that these individuals have a higher rate of neck injury too and I do not have a degree to tell you this so take it for what it is worth.

  • JQP

    really? how long has footie been around? how many players are suffering from major brain damage. they’re not using their heads like battering rams, it’s a soft’ish air filled ball! And this story is NOT giving you all the facts! Abby Calahen was not playing soccer, she was playing futsal (a version of soccer played on an indoor basketball court with a WEIGHTED ball). She was hit full force, square in the face, not heading a regular soccer ball appropriately.

    You know, we are trying to catch every conceivable injury that could possibly, perhaps, maybe, cause problems at some point in a person’s life….GUESS WHAT, you can’t. I would rather be injured doing something physical that requires movement, strength, agility, strategic thinking, and good health rather than getting fat playing video games all day. Get off your couch and risk a little head injury, for God’s sake! it’s way more fun than heart disease or stroke.

  • Steve Wilson

    Well duh! But this is a sport. Sports are above all intelligence. Sports are part of the reason that America no longer has the best educational system in the world (that and George Bush). De-emphasize sports in public schools. Only count scholastic performance for entrance to college.

    • JQP

      Wait, What are you saying? That an athlete’s gift and controbution have less value than academics? Why? We have an educational system that is floundering because we have a society that is constantly battling poverty, or the threat thereof. We have parents that can’t take the time to sit down with their children each evening to participate in their children’s education. We have public educational system that can’t pay for good teachers and students who are learning more from TV and video games (for which their parents went deeper into debt to provide). No, sorry, people in this country use sports to unite for a common cause (because they don’t believe in their country anymore), and to escape the pain and uncertainty of everyday life.

      Athletes contribute by using the talent God gave them just like artists, musicians,& writers. So, perhaps we should remove those talents from the methods by which some kids get scholarships? What are you thinking?

  • Stupidity Rules

    Sounds like you have had a few blows to the head there JQP.

    • JQP

      Ah. I see. Sorry, I thought we were having a grown up conversation. My mistake.

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