Posts Tagged ‘ soccer ’

No Football Tackles Before Age 14, Neurosurgeon Says

Monday, October 1st, 2012

A new book written by a neurosurgeon advises that tackling in football and heading in soccer should not be allowed until children are 14 years old and are showing signs of reaching puberty.  The reason for the recommendation is that those practices are believed to cause concussions that can lead to developmental, learning, and other health problems as children grow.  From CNN.com:

“If kids don’t have axillary (underarm) or pubic hair, they aren’t ready to play,” said Dr. Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon at Emerson Hospital in Massachusetts and author of a new book, “Concussion and Our Kids.”

“And I have absolutely no problem with parents who want to hold a child out for longer, say 16 or 18.”

No tackling? No body checking before 14?

Heading a soccer ball before 14 in soccer might be sacrificed — if studies eventually bear out the debatable link to concussion — but tackling and body checking essentially define football and hockey.

In Cantu’s words, “These are sports in which smashing into your opponent isn’t just a possibility — it’s the object of the game.”

And there is some substance behind the argument for waiting until 14, says Cantu, not the least of which is protecting young, developing brains. At 14, he says, several things enhance the body’s ability to protect against head trauma.

Before 14, there is a size disparity between the head and the body, causing what concussion experts call a “bobble-head” effect — the head snaps back dramatically after it is hit.

“Our youngsters have big heads on very weak necks and that combination sets up the brain for greater injury,” said Cantu, a clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine.

However, around age 14, a child’s skull is about 90% the size of an adult’s, and the neck and body are strong enough to steel the head against the force of a blow, according to Cantu. The more developed the neck muscles, the less dramatically the head (and thus the brain) is rocked after a tackle or a body check.

Image: Child with football, via Shutterstock

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Research Raises Concerns About Heading Soccer Balls

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

A new study of the brains of experienced soccer players–adults who have played the game since childhood–has concluded that repeated heading of the ball has pronounced effects on brain functions including memory and attention.  The New York Times reports:

The researchers found, according to data they presented at a Radiological Society of North America meeting last month, that the players who had headed the ball more than about 1,100 times in the previous 12 months showed significant loss of white matter in parts of their brains involved with memory, attention and the processing of visual information, compared with players who had headed the ball fewer times. (White matter is the brain’s communication wiring, the axons and other structures that relay messages between neurons.)

This pattern of white matter loss is “similar to those seen in traumatic brain injury,” like after a serious concussion, the researchers reported, even though only one of these players reported having ever experienced a concussion.

The players who had headed the ball about 1,100 times or more in the past year were also substantially worse at recalling lists of words read to them, forgetting or fumbling the words far more often than players who had headed the ball less often.

“Based on these results, it does look like there is a potential for significant effects on the brain from frequent heading,” says Dr. Michael L. Lipton, associate director of the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center at Einstein and senior author of the study.

Image: Boy with a soccer ball, via Shutterstock

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