If you mention the phrase sports concussion, most people probably think football – not girls’ soccer. But when you compare head injuries by sport, girls’ soccer ranks second only to football. And some studies estimate that the concussion rate in girls’ soccer is twice as high as for boys who play the game.
Why? Dr. Robert Cantu is one of the leading experts on concussions. And he says girls tend to have longer, thinner necks, which means, their heads snap farther after an impact. Also, soccer allows players to “head” the ball. And while the ball doesn’t weigh enough to do any brain damage, players often smash their heads together with enough force to cause a concussion – sometimes in both players.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix. And opinions are divided on protective headgear. Our brains float in liquid, so a sudden stop can cause it to slam against the inside of your skull, even if there isn’t a direct blow to your head. And some people say that helmets provide a false sense of security – and actually encourage harder hits.
So, does this mean you should pull your daughter off the soccer field? Not necessarily. But, you do need to be proactive and manage the risk.
Dr. Cantu believes that neck-strengthening exercises should be a regular part of any athlete’s training.
And be aware: The symptoms of concussions are different in girls and boys. Yes, headaches are the #1 symptom in both sexes. But according to The Journal of Athletic Training, the secondary symptoms in girls are likely to be sensitivity to noises and drowsiness, while boys are more likely to feel confused, or have memory difficulties.
Parents, if you have any reason to suspect that your child has a head injury, get them off the field and into a doctor’s office right away.