Limiting rough play might be a better way to prevent concussions and other injuries though heading takes the heat in youth soccer, suggests a nine-year study of U.S. high school games.
More than 1 in 4 concussions occurred when players used their heads to hit the ball. But more than half of these heading-related concussions were caused by collisions with another player rather than with the ball.
Collisions included head-to-head, elbow-to-head and shoulder-to-head contact, said Dawn Comstock, a University of Colorado public health researcher who led the study.
Player contact caused almost 70 percent of boys' concussions and just over half of those injuries among girls. Heading caused 30 percent of concussions in girls versus 17 percent in boys.
Chris Nowinski, co-founder of the Sports Legacy Institute, noted that a degenerative brain disease linked with repeated head blows and more often associated with football has recently been found in autopsies of professional soccer players.
Comstock said, "If the rules of soccer were simply enforced better, we would actually be more successful in reducing concussion rates." There have been recent calls to ban or limit heading in youth soccer, particular among players younger than 14, because of concerns about long-term effects of concussions and repeated brain trauma.