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New Debate Focuses on Soccer Concussions


REGION (WGGB) — A play during Sunday’s World Cup Final is sparking a new debate about concussions.

Germany’s Christoph Kramer took a jarring hit to the left side of his head. After being checked by medical staff, he decided to keep playing.

However, fifteen minutes later, Kramer had to be helped off the field.

Studies have hinted at the link between heading and brain injuries for decades. In fact, several recent reports conclude that the technique brought poorer neurocognitive performance.

“Everyone needs to be on their toes because there are some very ambiguous signs when it comes to concussions that are hard to read at first. If you leave it to the player, some players will say put me back in coach,” said Erin Sullivan, the Athletic Director for the Western New England Soccer Academy.

Heading is the leading cause of serious injuries in soccer. A new campaign called “Parents and Pros for Safer Soccer” are trying to get the word out to parents and coaches that players shouldn’t head the ball until they’re in high school.

Right now, any player at any age can head a soccer ball. The campaign doesn’t want heading to be permitted until the age of 14. Their goal is to protect players during their most vulnerable years for a brain injury.

“I used to use the top of my head. I know you’re supposed to use your forehead. But, I never used to do that. I would be dizzy a lot”, said nine-year-old Caleigh Wall.

Wall has participated in the summer camp for two years. She’s done the head technique two or three times. She agrees that knowing the proper way to head a soccer ball is very important.

The Western New England Soccer Academy has athletic trainers on site at all times. They are very clear about the safe guards and return-to-play progressions.

“There are different precautions for different ages,” Sullivan says. “We’re very cautious with the youngest groups. We talk to the kids a lot about it.”

The summer camp is home to more than 150 players, ranging from six to 16-years-old.

Sullivan believes having open communication about the topic is necessary. Although he does allow heading, it’s a controlled environment. He uses softer soccer balls to teach players how to properly head. Sullivan supports the campaign in certain capacities. He doesn’t think heading can be completely removed from the game.

Still, doctors believe children aren’t capable of making the necessary preparations to head a soccer ball. They’re not strong enough, aware enough, or coordinated enough.

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