Source: Asbury Park Press
Interest in soccer is skyrocketing among U.S. youth, and so are their injuries. Especially head injuries.
Results of a 25-year study, released last month by Nationwide Children’s Hospital, set off alarm bells in pediatric health circles. The salient numbers:
The yearly rate of injuries increased 111 percent among players ages 7-17.
Soccer-related injuries treated in emergency departments rose 78 percent.
The concussion rate ballooned by nearly 1,600 percent.
The leading types of ailments were sprains or strains (35 percent), fractures (23 percent) or soft tissue injuries (22 percent).
It’s not just raw numbers that are up as participation swells. The study, which was conducted from 1990-2014, portrayed young players as facing an increasing risk of getting hurt.
“We’re seeing athletes play year-round now thanks to club, travel and rec leagues, and the intensity of play is higher than it ever has been,” said study author Huiyun Xiang, director of Research Core at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “These factors combine to lead to more risk of injury.”
It’s scary, but Dr. Vikram Varma, Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Community Medical Center in Toms River, urges perspective when digesting the data.
“What’s happening now is people are much more aware of injuries,” Varma told the Asbury Park Press. “People are more likely to go to their doctor when there are signs of sprains or head injuries.”
The latter is the subject of increasing debate within wellness circles. Some of the concussions are caused by player-to-player collisions, but a 2014 study by the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association found that a sizable chunk of overall concussions came due to heading the ball: 30 percent in boys and 25 percent in girls.
Building on that concern, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital study recommended limiting heading for younger players. It suggested banning heading for those under age 11 — a practice already put into place by the U.S. Soccer Federation in 2015 – and limiting the amount of heading in practice for anyone under 14.
Varma, who played soccer growing up and whose daughters also played the sport, expressed mixed feelings about the concept.
“It’s definitely something to think about,” he said. “I would use common sense. Most of the balls they use tend to be age-appropriate. The speed and velocity they play at is less.”
However, he cautioned, “Any time there is a head injury, the most important thing is to get an assessment.”
To that end, Community Medical Center is offering free screenings — both concussion and cardiac — on Saturday in Toms River. The screenings take place from 8 a.m. to noon in the hospital’s auditorium.
The cardiac screenings are open to the first 130 athletes ages 6-18. The concussion screening is open to the first 80 athletes ages 12 and up.
Registration is required. To register and schedule an appointment time, email teamlink @ rwjbh.org.