Over the last year, mostly as a result of football’s recent woes, concussions have become a popular topic of discussion when it comes to sports. Whereas everyone previously simply regarded sports as a break from life, a simple means of entertainment that doesn’t hurt anyone and really has no bearing on people’s wellbeing, the reality of just how badly hurt these folks are getting is finally sinking in.
The thing that’s really worrisome to most isn’t even the impact that concussions and head trauma in sports is having on current athletes (though, admittedly that is one of the things that’s worrisome); rather, what people are really tripping out about right now is what sort of risks their kids are facing. Specifically, parents are suddenly re-evaluating whether they really want their young boys to play football – the sport that carries the highest risk of concussions among school-aged kids.
And yet, with all of the attention currently on football, the sport that carries the second highest risk of concussions among school-aged kids is flying completely and totally under the radar. That sport? Girls soccer.
As noted by Yahoo! Sports:
Yet a series of new studies prove conclusively that those sports can't hold a candle to girls soccer, which has been at the vanguard of a steep rise in pediatric concussion cases between 2001 and 2010 -- by an astounding 58 percent -- according to a study by Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City…
While it’s impossible to pinpoint one specific thing and cite that as the reason that girls are experiencing so much head trauma in soccer, clearly heading (the act of hitting the ball with one’s head) doesn’t help matters. Per NBC Sports:
Other studies have also found that excessive heading in soccer can cause brain damage. It’s estimated that the typical adult amateur player heads the ball between 1,000 and 1,500 times a year.
In hopes of shining some additional light on the biggest health issue facing young athletes that nobody seems to want to talk about, Rock Center has put together a special episode on the topic. Via NBC:
While it’s great that we’re finally addressing the health of young athletes in full, answering the question of where we go from here is no easier when you’re talking about girls soccer than it is when you’re talking about men’s football. Much in the same way that football can’t just take out the violent parts of the game, soccer seemingly can’t just outlaw heading when it’s an accepted part of the experience. Or can they? Is soccer without heading still soccer? And if we alter the heading aspect of soccer, can we do the same with other risky elements of different sports? And who decides what's officially deemed risky?
The last year has been one for acknowledging that there are problems with our sports, reviewing those problems, and understanding that changes need to be made. This next year will be much tougher. This will be the year where we need to find actual solutions to the problems.
And with kids' lives on the line here, the lackadaisical way of dealing with things that's become commonplace in our society when it comes to everything else really isn't an option.