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US study says headers should be banned to help stop concussions

Brandi Chastain stands on the field

Brandi Chastain stands on the field

Getty Images

A study into concussions in soccer has stated that banning headers for youngsters could “decrease concussions by 30 percent.”

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Scientists in Denver, Colorado have been looking into 10 years of concussion data and found that banning heading and reducing the roughness of games for players aged 8-14 would reap huge benefits.

U.S. women’s national team legend Brandi Chastain has led a campaign to ban heading in high school soccer but this study has suggested that the harm headers cause to young players should not only be limited to players aged 14 and under, and any ban on heading could be increased to players even older than 14.

Overall, the paper suggests heading isn’t helpful when it comes to concussions but it also highlights the need to “limit player-to-player contact” and for the laws of the game to be “more stringently enforced.”

Here is more information on the study from
the Associated Press:

A paper published Monday by a group of Denver-area doctors sheds a different light on what results might come from a campaign led by Brandi Chastain and other women soccer stars to ban headers for players 14 and under.

The paper, appearing in JAMA Pediatrics, was based on data collected since 2005 involving more than 1,000 high school soccer concussions. It concluded that by banning heading in youth soccer, about 30 percent of concussions could be avoided, but that a far larger decrease could be possible if rules that limit player-to-player contact were more stringently enforced.

“A lot of people felt, if we could get a ban on heading, we could keep some people safe,” said Dawn Comstock, an epidemiologist with the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. “My question was, is there any evidence out there that supports that?”

Coinciding with the women’s World Cup, a group of concussion experts teamed with Chastain and other women soccer players to make a big public push for the Safer Soccer initiative. They cited a study that tracked 59 concussions suffered by junior-high girls in Washington State and concluded that about 30 percent of those injuries could be eliminated if heading were banned. That extrapolates to a potential of around 100,000 concussions avoided over a three-year period.

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