You’ve probably seen a lot of heads during the FIFA Women’s World Cup i.e. hitting the soccer ball with the head to pass or shoot. USWNT midfielder Julie Ertz and forward Carli Lloyd both scored with heads in the 3-0 win over Chile. You may also have seen forward Alex Morgan score a goal in Team USA’s historic 13-0 game against Thailand (she scored five goals this game, NBD). These headers really look like they hurt from a viewer’s point of view – especially when you hear (and practically to feel) impact – so POPSUGAR sought the expertise of Dennis Cardone, DO, sports medicine specialist and co-director of the NYU Langone Concussion Center, to learn more about the risks.
Can the head of a soccer ball cause a concussion?
There’s definitely a risk of sustaining a concussion to a head, Dr Cardone said, but you’re more likely to get it by colliding with another player in the process. “Of course when you look at the data most concussions happen with the heading, but it’s not head-to-ball contact, it’s head-to-head contact,” he explained. . Although a 2018 study from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine suggested that frequent headers actually affect cognitive function more than these collisions.
In 2015, the American Football Federation banned children 10 and under from directing the ball during practices and games. He advised coaches to limit headers for children between the ages of 11 and 12, according to the American Football Rules for Young People released the following year (and this is consistent with more recent policies). “A big part of this is making the rules of football better respected and making players understand the rules of football,” said Dr Cardone, adding that player-to-player contacts should also be looked at more.
What’s the safest way to steer a soccer ball?
To minimize potential injury, Dr Cardone said players need to stabilize their neck and torso to reduce rotational forces (head rotation is a main cause of concussion). Dr Cardone noted that patients are also more likely to see a doctor not because they have deliberately aimed a soccer ball, but because they have been kicked unexpectedly. This is where neck stability comes in – they weren’t ready for impact.
Practice makes perfect, Dr. Cardone told us, and “by stabilizing the torso, it is what protects the head and neck.” The top of the head is the most sensitive area – which is why, he said, soccer players, for example, are told not to attack with their heads down. The impact of this vulnerable area leads to “more catastrophic neck injuries as well as potential concussions,” he said.
In football, the head is normally done from the front and side regions of the head (this coach suggests using the hairline). Hitting the ball from these areas is “more protective,” said Dr. Cardone. Before, check out the headers we mentioned earlier (I highly recommend watching Ertz’s goal on loop!). Heads may look like they’ve hurt – and there’s always a risk of injury – but these players have been training their entire lives, so we hope they know how to do it in the safest way possible. .