And now, we interrupt our usual service of soccer nerding and voyeurism and silliness and fanboying for an important public service announcement.
In the same week that another study found that heading a soccer ball can leave lasting damage to a brain, U.S. Soccer has released a concussion awareness video and launched the Recognize to Recover campaign with an informational website.
Back in November, U.S. Soccer raised eyebrows and drew some scorn by recommending that American youth soccer players under 10 don’t head at all and that those up to 14 years of age don’t head in practice. It couldn’t enforce those suggested rules on large swaths of the youth soccer game, as it has no jurisdiction over them, but they were widely implemented nonetheless. Now, it has begun an informational campaign to help educate the nation’s soccer community on the symptoms, effects and risks of concussions.
The centerpiece is the below video on concussion symptoms and treatment.
“The video’s purpose, and our goal,” said U.S. Soccer’s Chief Medical Officer George Chiampas, “is that all players that play the game of soccer – from the youth levels to our national teams, our pro leagues, the NCAA, high school associations, and every player that touches the game, as well as coaches, referees and parents – watch this video so that the lessons explained will become a part of the soccer culture in the United States.”
“We want players to make sure that they step forward if they’re concerned that they potentially have a concussion,” Chiampas continued. “We want them to seek care. We know that is a hurdle, but we want to make sure that coaches and referees understand some of the impacts and the symptoms that concussions can have, and that they understand their responsibility with this injury.”
On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported on a new study in the United Kingdom that found that a single header can alter and damage brains, even if the hit is sub-concussive. With balls shot towards players through a machine – presumably for scientific consistency – even at relatively modest speeds, more akin to headers in practice than games, temporary variations in brain function were measured.
The subjects of the study took short-term and long-term memory tests right after heading a ball 20 times in 10 minutes and performed significantly worse – up to 67 percent worse, in fact – than their baseline scores. While the effects were temporary, they are nonetheless significant, suggesting as they do that even relatively gentle and routine headers have an impact on the brain of some kind.
Previous research had already found that sustained exposure to sub-concussive hits, which may not display the symptoms of concussive damage, can nevertheless be just as harmful in the long run.
U.S. Soccer, which has been ahead of the curve in terms of concussion protocols – as has Major League Soccer – has launched a website to help inform soccer coaches, players, parents and administrators on player safety, laying out models for Emergency Action Plans, injury prevention, and, crucially, appropriate response to head and brain injuries.
“Recognize to Recover is a key part of U.S. Soccer’s vision of creating a culture of safety around the game,” Chiampas said. “R2R’s goal is to become a destination for ‘best practices’ with regards to soccer safety in the United States for not only concussions, but all soccer injuries. We want to emphasize injury prevention and create a tremendous amount of awareness among players, coaches, parents and referees.”
Show the kids. Show their coaches. Show your friends.