Soccer Headgear

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?

Yes.  Here's 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, here and here) showed that in lab experiments – headgear reduces the force of impact when heading the ball.

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. 

Arguments against:
– 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?