Soccer players seem to be at an elevated risk of developing CTE

In recent years, American football has become increasingly difficult for many fans to enjoy due to increased public awareness of how many physical consequences players tend to suffer as a result of the game. In particular, the public, players, the NFL and the NCAA are all concerned about the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) among professional and amateur players alike.

One particularly debilitating condition that can develop as a result of repetitive TBI is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This degenerative condition has affected boxers, hockey players and American football players alike. Unfortunately, it seems that CTE has now been discovered posthumously inside the brain of a 29-year-old former amateur and semi-professional soccer player. According to the New York Times, the portion of the player’s brain that sustained the CTE-related damage is located in the area that soccer players use to head the ball.

A number of studies in recent years have linked soccer players to an increased risk of TBI due to repeated contact between their heads and soccer balls. Heading the ball now seems to be tied to an increased risk of CTE even in relatively young players.

Just as the NFL and the NCAA have had to make rule changes and institute other reforms in light of recent evidence concerning risk of TBI and CTE, so may collegiate and professional soccer leagues in the U.S. Heading the ball in order to redirect it is a widely used move in soccer, but this using this maneuver may no longer be an acceptable risk for players to take.

Source: New York Times, “Brain Trauma Extends to the Soccer Field,” John Branch, Feb. 26, 2014

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