Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

How Soccer Concussions Can Cause Lasting Damage

is soccer dangerous

An epic clash in women’s soccer starts Thursday in Australia and New Zealand as 32 teams vie for the 2023 International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) Women’s World Cup, and the U.S. national team strives for an unprecedented three-peat. But amidst the excitement, there’s a growing concern about high-speed hits to players’ heads. New research highlights the danger of concussions and potential long-term brain damage in an aggressive sport that already has many star players sitting out of the World Cup due to bodily injuries. Let’s take a closer look at this issue and explore ways to improve players’ protection and health.

The Nature of Soccer and Concussions

Though soccer is not typically considered a high-contact sport, the game involves hard spills, hits from the ball, the ground, and other players. As the competition has increased, so have the collisions and the speed at which they occur. When players experience an impact, the sudden change in speed can cause the brain to ricochet inside the skull, stretching its neurons and disrupting crucial connectivity and the flow of neurotransmitters. However, concussions are often difficult to measure and detect, both on and off the field.

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The Invisible Injury

Concussions are often referred to as “invisible injuries” because symptoms may not be immediately apparent. Neuroimaging scans rarely show signs of abnormalities in the brain, making it challenging to determine the severity of a concussion. Common symptoms include headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, blurry vision, and cognitive dysfunction, which can last from a few days to months. However, the severity and duration of symptoms can vary from person to person.

Long-Term Implications

Multiple concussions, including subconcussive impacts from heading the ball, have raised concerns about the potential risk of future neurological conditions. Studies have shown an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in soccer players. Furthermore, former professional Scottish soccer players had a 1.7 percent higher risk of neurodegenerative diseases compared to the general population. These long-term health implications have become a significant concern in the soccer community and the public, prompting further investigation into the potential risks of playing soccer.

Ensuring Safer Play

Efforts are being made to improve the safety of players in soccer. Professional soccer leagues and federations have implemented medical concussion protocols and preseason tests to establish neurocognitive baselines. On-site diagnoses and examinations are conducted, and independent concussion assessments and rehabilitation services have been introduced. Additional measures, such as installing padding on goalposts and wearing protective gear like headbands and collars, can offer some level of protection. However, more research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of these measures.


Concussions in soccer can have lasting consequences on players’ health and well-being. It is crucial to raise awareness about the risks and take steps to protect players on and off the field. Improved protocols, better training for coaches, staff, and players, and a shift in the cultural attitude towards injuries are necessary. By prioritizing player safety and implementing effective measures, the soccer community can strive towards safer play and reduce the long-term impact of concussions.

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Q: How can concussions in soccer be detected?
A: Neuroimaging scans do not typically show signs of concussion. Diagnosis relies on recognizing symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and cognitive dysfunction.

Q: Are there long-term health risks associated with concussions in soccer?
A: Yes, studies have shown an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, in soccer players. However, further research is needed to fully understand the long-term implications.

Q: What measures are being taken to protect players from concussions in soccer?
A: Soccer leagues and federations have implemented concussion protocols, preseason tests, and on-site diagnoses. Additionally, padding on goalposts and protective gear like headbands and collars are being explored.

Q: How can we raise awareness about concussions in soccer?
A: By educating players, coaches, and the public about the risks and symptoms of concussions, we can ensure that individuals seek proper care and take necessary precautions.

Q: Can players continue playing after a concussion?
A: After sustaining a concussion, players should prioritize their well-being and follow appropriate medical advice. In some cases, individuals may need to consider changing sports or modifying their gameplay to reduce the risk of further injury.

Q: Are there any current initiatives to improve player safety in soccer?
A: Yes, governing bodies like FIFA have implemented measures such as independent concussion assessments, on-field medical staff, and additional substitutions for players with suspected concussions. These initiatives aim to prioritize player well-being.

Q: What can individuals do to support the well-being of soccer players?
A: Everyone involved in soccer, from players to coaches to fans, can contribute to player safety by promoting awareness, understanding the signs of a concussion, and encouraging proper medical evaluation and treatment.

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