An athlete comes to you after a collision saying they have a headache and don’t feel quite right. As their coach, trainer, or parent, you have to make a critical on what to do next. Is it something that can be “shook off” or is it something more severe? If you make the decision to pull them from the field, when can they return to the field? If it is a serious injury, what kind of treatment do they need?
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates that 1.6 to 3.8 millions concussions occur each year. This is a big range, and some more mild than others, but they can all lead to physical, mental, and psychological effects. Concussions are twice as likely to occur in females, mainly in soccer. Males will mostly likely suffer a concussion in football, no surprise there. When you first think about, football makes sense. You have two bodies of mass colliding against each other, usually with the head taking much of the impact. In the game they call it “ear holing”, when you put your facemask in the ear hole of your opponent. This is a concussion waiting to happen. Most concussions occur when the head is struck from the side, not from the top or front.
Soccer may have surprised you a little bit, but there are two factors that make a lot of sense. Heading the ball is a big part of the game, and that ball travels at an average of 75 mph. Even though the ball weighs less than 1 lb., that’s a tremendous force when you take into account the player isn’t just accepting the ball with their head, but trying to forcefully change its direction.
Please don’t use this article alone when educating you about concussions, I mostly want to inform and make aware. The CDC has a lot of great articles, as do preventingconcussions.org and concussiontreatment.com.
Obviously you can’t always control whether or not you are going to get on, but there are some simple things that can be done to help you prevent them. Wearing a mouth guard will help the pressure of the collision be dispersed through your body, and not be taken by just your head. Up to date helmets and protective head gear can do a lot, but don’t rely solely on them for protection. There are a couple companies out there that market padded headgear for soccer players. They claim to have independent studies done that prove their efficiency, but that’s hard to say. Aside from buying equipment there are a few exercises you can do to strengthen your neck to better support and transfer the force. No matter the sport, one of the most important things to remember is to make sure you are not accepting the force, but being the one delivering it.
If you, or someone you know might have a concussion, don’t diagnose them yourself, contact a professional immediately.