World Cup inspires heightened coverage of header hazards

The United States has been knocked out of the World Cup. However, the national team inspired a great deal of “soccer fever” before it lost to Belgium a few days ago. Soccer is a great sport for kids, amateurs and professionals alike, partially because it is such a physically active sport and promotes both athleticism and team work.

However, there is a darker side to soccer that has only recently been discussed in the media and among sports safety experts. While soccer is played primarily with the players’ feet, many also regularly use their heads to steer flying soccer balls in various directions. According to a local CBS station, many high-level players use their heads an average of 12 times each game.

While one wouldn’t normally associate soccer with preventable brain injuries, it is becoming increasingly apparent that heading the ball regularly and repeatedly can ultimately cause players brain damage. The excitement of the World Cup has thankfully inspired a discussion about this critical player safety issue.

More parent, player and coach education is needed on this subject before the sport is likely to be approached in ways that de-emphasize heading for the safety of players. In addition, more exploration of this subject is needed so that leagues across the country can identify potential brain trauma in players of all ages and can respond to this trauma properly. Finally, the medical community needs more education on this issue so that potentially injured players can receive correct diagnoses and the treatment that they need.

Source: CBS Denver, “Those Soccer Headers May Hurt More Than You Think,” Dr. Dave Hnida, June 22, 2014