You probably know that only around 30% of concussions in soccer come from heading the ball and 70% or so are from accidental collisions with other heads, elbows, knees, the ground, goal posts and the like. But even if you just look at heading the ball, protection is paramount… especially among younger players. The following is an excerpt from Dan Blank’s book, Soccer IQ – Things That Smart Players Do, as he talks about the importance of protecting the head… like we do the shins!
There’s one guaranteed way for you not to help your team, and that’s by not being on the field. You’re on a soccer team because you enjoy playing soccer. You don’t get to do that unless your take care of your body – and that includes your head.
Concussions plague more than four million Americans each year – and those are just the ones that get reported. Many remain undiagnosed. The occurrence of concussions in soccer is remarkably high. Soccer ranks only behind football in the amount of concussions sustained and it is the leading sport for concussions in females.
If you think that heading the ball isn’t a concussion risk, Google ‘concussions in soccer from heading.’ The estimated impact speed of heading a soccer ball is 70 m.p.h. You don’t have to be a doctor to understand that this type of behavior isn’t exactly conducive to great health. The latest research focuses on ‘sub-concussive’ hits. These are mini-hits to the brain, like the kind you get from heading the ball. They’re not enough to ring your bell, but they do take their toll on the brain. Enough of these hits will eventually lead to a full-blown concussion. The bottom line is that soccer is a high-risk sports for brain injuries, and heading the ball in an inherent concussion risk. I know – because I’ve seen it happen too many times.
Concussion protocol dictates that a player may not return to practice or games until he or she has been symptom-free for at least a week. That’s not seven days from the date of the concussion; it’s seven days from when her symptoms disappear. Those symptoms can linger for weeks.
Soccer is a collision sport. You are constantly running into other players, crashing into the ground, and challenging for headers. This is all part of your job and you won’t ever be a great player if you don’t have the courage to take these physical risks. That’s just the life we’ve chosen.
You’re lucky. You are part of a generation of soccer players that is blessed with the technology that can minimize your concussion risk. Advances in head gear have given you the option to vastly reduce your chances of sustaining a concussion.
Unequal’s HALO is a lightweight headband for soccer players that is fortified with aramid fabric (Kevlar® is an aramid fabric) – yes, the same stuff used in bulletproof vests! I’ve got to believe that if aramid fabric can help keep our soldiers safe, it can keep us safe also.
I’ve talked with players using this product and their review were absolutely spectacular! Not only did those players say that they quickly forgot that they were even wearing headgear, they also saw no negative effects on their heading accuracy. As a matter of fact, some players actually became better headers because the HALO gave them more confidence to challenge for the ball. If a product can keep you safer and improve your heading ability, it’s certainly worth considering.
Look, you need to protect yourself, and not just to stay on the field. Your long-term health is actually the bigger issue. Concussions are serious injuries. They can kill you. They can lead to memory loss, brain damage and other serious complications. My point is this: If you can reduce your risk of concussion, why the heck wouldn’t you?
If you want to stay on the field, you have to get ahead of concussions. It’s really that simple. The technology is available. Take advantage of it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dan Blank has been coaching college soccer for over twenty years. He is the only coach in Southeastern Conference history to lead the conference’s best defense in consecutive years at different universities (Ole Miss 2009, Georgia 2010). He has an ‘A’ License from the USSF and an Advanced National Diploma from the NSCAA. When Football.com Released its List of the Fourteen Best Books for Youth Soccer, seven of those books where authored by Coach Blank. You can buy his books and read his blog at www.soccerpoet.com.