When it comes to concussions, the discussion tends to revolve around football. There are countless articles and medical studies on the subject, and even a feature film starring Will Smith. But football isn’t the only sport troubled by head injuries.
A recent University of Minnesota study shows that soccer and volleyball are among the other popular sports that join football in having consistently high rates of concussions.
Francis Shen, a law school professor at the University of Minnesota, led this study titled “How Dangerous Are Youth Sports for the Brain?” The researchers looked at 100-peer reviewed publications and found there is significant variation in concussion rates across various sports. However, soccer was one of the sports where the rate was highest. Volleyball wasn’t as high but still had a significant risk.
“Football has garnered most of the news for concussions but if you think about it, there’s a risk in other sports like soccer and volleyball,” Shen told GameChanger’s theSeason. “In volleyball, there’s a hard floor players can hit and there are always headers in soccer. It can be a challenge to deal with in these sports. They’re trying to balance these risks while also keeping the game fun.”
Shen’s study is one of several that have shown the risks for concussions in sports like soccer and volleyball. The Center For Disease Control and Prevention has a whole section of its website devoted to concussions in youth sports. The organization gives tips and trends in different sports when it comes to concussion prevention.
When it comes to soccer, the CDC has found that girls have a higher rate of concussions than boys. These concussions are most likely due to heading the ball. The concussions not sustained while heading the ball most often come from player-to-player contact and when a player makes contact with something like the goalpost.
The soccer community does recognize the sport’s high number of concussions and is working on ways to alleviate the risk. Researchers at places like Virginia Tech University are working to create a helmet that soccer players can wear that will help them avoid concussions. U.S. Soccer has also put out recommendations saying that no player 10 years old or younger should be heading the ball, and players ages 11 to 13 should only head the ball in practice.
In volleyball, the outside hitter and setter positions are at a significant risk for a concussion. These most often happen when diving for a ball and trying to earn a dig. About 25 percent of the concussions happen when a player is diving and makes contact with another teammate.
Unlike soccer, volleyball does not have as clear of a solution to prevent concussions. The CDC advises coaches to teach proper technique that will allow players to avoid hits to the head.
The discussion about reducing concussions in sports like volleyball and soccer is far from over. But Chen and others say one of the biggest steps in the right direction is making sure more people properly understand the facts about concussions.
“I think concussion awareness is a big part of lowering the risk,” Shen said. “Going through concussion protocol shouldn’t just be another rule players have to follow.”
From GameChanger and Ryan Williamson
Read more on youth sport safety here: 4 Ways Parents Can Be More Informed When it Comes to Their Athlete’s Safety