All of my devoted readers (Hi Mom!) know that my son had had his share of concussions playing sports. In the Fall of 2007, he landed on his head in a soccer game. Spring of '08 there was the baseball that hit him in the head/eye .. and the last Fall – he was hit in the side head with a line-drive soccer ball.
Concussion #3 within 12 months was almost the last piece of straw on the camel's back. With each successive concussion, the injury was worse – even though the inciting events may actually have been similar in severity.
While the parents' decisions on matters like this are of course always public – in this case – they also reflect my medical decision-making skills (or lack thereof!) as many of the parents and kids on the community have known me as their family physician. So while I would need to make the right decision for Sam – I also need to make sure that other parents understand the rationale for the decisions – and perhaps help use these events to bring about a change.
After a full recovery – we agreed to allow him to return to playing soccer with one caveat: he is required to wear a soccer helmet.
he will always wear the headgear when he plays soccer. If he forgets it for a practice or game – he doesn't play. when he goes to college he will wear it. If he ends up being a pro soccer player – the headgear will be there.
Why will he always wear this?
– It may prevent another concussion
– It's comfortable and doesn't interfere with his play at all
– If he has another concussion – the outcome will be even worse. It could even kill him
Would soccer headgear protect other kids from this?
a recent study that demonstrates the protective effect of headgear in real soccer players – and is associated with a significantly lower incidence of concussion in boys. Other studies (here
) showed that in lab experiments – headgear reduces the force of impact when heading the ball.
A recent study
demonstrated that the protective effect may not be present for girls.
As I read these papers – and others – it becomes clear that much of the focus is on heading
, but heading is certainly not the only reason kids get concussions. In Sam's case – none of the events involved Sam's volitional heading
of a ball. Indeed – this paper
looked at the causes of concussions in soccer players and found that:
The most frequent injury mechanism was elbow to head contact, followed by head to head contact in heading duels.
So perhaps girls would still be protected – as they would have SOMETHING between that head and the oncoming elbow!
There is a conversation now beginning amongst some of the team parents about whether headgear should be required of all players.
Argument for having all kids wear them:
– It will prevent concussions. Note that I didn't say might prevent concussions.
– They look dorky
– They are expensive
Obviously – I had to put these two out on the table. The kids will object because they are dorky and the parents will object because they cost $35. I'm sure we can buy them in bulk to save some money – or perhaps we don't really NEED those cool matching back-packs with the embroidered names on them. Remember when people didn't wear bike helmets? Ski helmets? Seat belts? How long do we have to wait before we get smart here?