When thinking about the toughest sports on the body, some that quickly come to mind are football, hockey and wrestling.
Farther down the list is soccer. It may be due to a lack of popularity in America, a history of flopping in largely European soccer or at first glance a wide-open field with plenty of room for players to roam that makes people think soccer doesn’t have the same effects on bodies as some other sports.
But soccer can have the same, and sometimes more, dire effects on an athlete’s body as any other sport — especially concussions.
“We got lucky last year and didn’t have one,” said Mount Carmel girls soccer coach Rich Miller. “The previous year we had a few. I think the last four or five years we’ve had at least one concussion.”
Miller says the concussions usually happen in the most important area of the field.
“A lot of times it’s going up for a header, a player trying to head it into goal,” Miller said. “It happens the most in the penalty area.”
Concussions are a growing issue in every sport and soccer is no different. To try and raise awareness and prevent the injury, U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer held a medical symposium in Philadelphia this weekend. Friday’s session focused on identification and prevention of concussions.
Former U.S. women’s national team member, Cindy Parlow Cone, shared her concussion story. Cone suffered her first major concussion in 2001, and still deals with symptoms today.
She said concussions turned her into a player that grew disinterested in being on the field.
Southern Columbia boys soccer coach Dave Hall said he’s only had one player suffer a concussion in the past few years, but he still sees the importance in awareness of the injury that debilated Crone’s career.
“I think the most important thing is to protect the welfare of the players more than anything else,” Hall said. “It’s about awareness and protecting the kids.”
To raise awareness at the high school levels, coaches like Miller and Hall have to take courses each year to learn concussion symptoms and how to identify them.
The mandatory classes have the approval of Hall.
“I think they’re doing a good job,” Hall said. “I think it’s good every coach recognizes symptoms.”
As for the actual players, Miller says he and his team take some proactive steps to help cut concussions.
“A lot of girls wear handbands and they help,” Miller said. “Even in heading drills, in practice, I just don’t do them as much anymore. Just lobbing to get down the technique, instead of game situations.”
Of course, other injuries happen in soccer besides concussions.
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are common and Miller has seen players suffer them just by touching the ball wrong or in warmups.
But concussions are the major injury issue in almost every sport and soccer teams aresjust as worried about preventing them as any other sport.
“We keep a close eye on the kids,” Hall said. “Even if it’s a little bit of a bump, we make sure they’re fine. I think monitoring is the biggest thing.”