Does Heading a Soccer Ball Cause TBI?

And I think we have another person who has a question. Please go ahead. Will hitting a soccer ball give my child a concussion? Dr. Kelly? The Institute of Medicine, a few years back, pulled a panel together and the research we were able to use, at least several years back, indicated that hitting the ball, as best we could tell, if it is done right, in the usual manner of propelling the ball in the other direction by the plan, does not produce concussion. And even just this last year, the Swedes did a very nice study looking at individuals heading the ball, and then doing spinal fluid analysis, spinal taps, looking for evidence of leaking from nerve cells that they had already seen in boxers. And they found none in the soccer players, who were hitting the ball. So while it may not be a zero risk, we're not seeing evidence of our kids' brains being injured by heading the ball in soccer. What about the neck? [Dr. Kelly] Well, the important issue is doing it right. And so, if we can tighten the neck muscles and propel the ball, so that the blow that the ball produces is damped--if you will-- physically by the mass of the whole body, then things work out--we don't have a problem. But if, even inadvertently, especially a youngster's head is hit by a ball that they don't see coming, and the head moves, concussion can occur under those circumstances. So it's not as if soccer itself, as a game with collisions and all, has a zero risk of concussion, but heading the ball, when done properly itself, apparently does not.

Neurologist Dr. James Kelly, one of America’s top experts on treating concussions, talks about the data on heading the ball in soccer and brain injury.

This is an excerpt from BrainLine's webcast Concussion: Understanding Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. See full webcast here.

Posted on BrainLine May 27, 2011.

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