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                              "Effects Of Heading The Soccer Ball
                                   By Alex Vasquez -  La Cancha Youth Contributor

According to recent studies, it has been found that persons who frequently head the soccer ball have been affected by impairments in some mental functions such as concentration and memory. Verbal ability has at times also been affected.

Although the risk of suffering a concussion is ever present in any heading situation, concussions occur most frequently in young players.  Some people advise that use of the head in soccer be banned, or that kids not begin playing soccer until they reach the age of 12 due to the risk of head injury. It is at that age (12) when coordination and neck strength improves, making it possible for the young players to learn the skill of heading in the proper way.

Symptoms of concussions may include headaches, dizziness, lack of awareness of surroundings, nausea, and vomiting or the loss of consciousness. Athletes found with the most mental decline are boxers, soccer and football players. In soccer, forward and defensive players head the ball most often. Studies have also shown that mental decline can be directly related to the number of times a player has suffered a concussion from heading the ball.

There have also been times when heading a soccer ball has been fatal. In the summer of 1996, a thirteen year old boy headed a flying soccer ball during a soccer tournament and then complained about ringing of his ears and a headache. Before the game was over he had lost consciousness. Five days later he died. A doctor attributed the cause of death to internal bleeding in the brain which occurred when the boy hit the ball with his head.  

Although there is the unforeseen variable of pre-existing injury or illness, how many people are aware of either prior to a more severe injury caused by head to ball impact.  In addition. many head injuries particularly concussion occur when players collide into each other or into goalpost.

Many kids (and adults) do not head the ball in the correct way and this is why they get hurt. Some athletes head the ball with the top of their head, rather than the forehead at the hairline which is said to be the strongest part of the skull.

Also many young kids (and adults), close their eyes when they head the ball. That is because they are in some cases not taught properly and, or are just learning how to play soccer. They are afraid of the ball hitting their face so they close their eyes.  However since they have less control over where the ball (or their head) will make contact due to closing their eyes, they are more likely to get hurt.  They may not see the other player attempting a head strike in the same ball area.

Barry Jordan a noted sports neurologist at the University of California at Los Angeles, conducted research and tests on soccer players and a group of swimmers. He found that the soccer players did less well than the swimmers on 5 of 11 neurological tests.

Although soccer has a lower rate of head related injuries when compared to contact sports such as football or boxing, the soccer coach should always be aware of the potential for head injury..

In conclusion, heading a soccer ball can be dangerous if it is headed when it is coming at a great force, and contact is made with the wrong part of the head. In those instances the brain could suffer internal bleeding.  However most serious injuries occur in soccer during collisions with other players, goalposts, or when the head strikes the ground as a result of a fall.  Overall, heading the ball in itself is not particularly dangerous, that is if you know when and how to use your head!!!


La Cancha welcomes Alex Vasquez as it's first youth contributor. Alex is
a 17 year old student at Bellville High School who lives with his parents  in New Jersey USA.  His father Felix Vasquez who assists Alex with his training was himself an accomplished semi-pro player years ago in his native Ecuador.  The above article was originally produced by Alex as a school research paper. If you are 18 years old or under, and would like LaCancha to consider your article please email us.

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