soccer_headingIn a paper published in the journal Brain Injury, researchers are calling for more research into the long-term effects of heading, an aspect of soccer that involves the purposeful use of the head to control the ball, and the associated risk of concussions. The writers of the paper warn that not enough attention has been given to this unique aspect of the sport, though there is significant concern in sports about the possible long-term cognitive and behavioral consequences for athletes acute or repeat concussions, as well as sub-concussive head impacts.

The literature review by Tom Schweizer, PhD, examined research papers that studied the incidence of concussion in soccer, finding that concussions accounted for 5.8% to 8.6% of total injuries sustained during games. Also, research papers that looked at the mechanism of injury found 41.1 per cent of concussions resulted from contact by an elbow, arm or hand to the head. Another found that 58.3 per cent of concussions occurred during a heading duel, and more females suffered concussions from player-to-surface and player-to-ball contact than males who had more player-to-player contact than females.

To view additional findings of the literature review, visit the website of Brain Injury at

Schweizer states, “The practice of heading, which might occur thousands of times over a player’s career, carries unknown risks, but may uniquely contribute to cognitive decline or impairment in the short- or long-term. Thus, soccer players present a unique opportunity to study whether cumulative sub-concussive impacts affect cognitive functioning, similar to that of concussions.”

Monica Maher, a co-author of the study, explains that the researchers wanted to emphasize possible injury prevention methods. Maher says, “Use of protective headgear, limiting heading exposure or stressing proper heading technique in younger children and increasing concussion education are all suggestions to perhaps decrease the incidence of head injury and their subsequent effects in the long run.”

Source: St. Michael’s Hospital