From small scrapes to hospital emergencies, playing soccer can be painful, and even dangerous. To avoid head injuries and concussions the only effective solution is wearing soft protective headgear, as shown by Dr. Scott Delaney, Research Director of Emergency Medicine at the MUHC, in a new study published in the July issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
In the first attempt to rely on results from the field instead of the lab, this innovative study was carried out just after the 2006 soccer season and included 268 adolescents, aged 12 to 17 years, from the Oakville Soccer Club. Although only 52 of them wore headgear during this period, the results are significant: the risk of concussion was 2.65 times higher for players who were not protected. In fact, 52.8% of the adolescents who did not wear headgear reported being injured compared to only 26.9% of those who did. These results are indeed noteworthy, particularly since approximately 80% of sports-related injuries are not recognized or reported. Prevention is therefore an essential means of protection.
Interestingly, though headgear protects the areas of the head that are covered, there were no differences in the number of cuts and bruises on the areas of the head and face not covered by it. “This was important to examine as many people fear that the use of soccer headgear may make players more aggressive and more prone to other injuries. At least for these injuries, it may show that wearing headgear does not encourage people to play more aggressively,” stated Dr. Delaney.
Unfortunately, adolescents who regularly wear headgear are not the rule and do not represent the majority of young athletes: most of them are young girls or adolescents who have already been injured. “Girls, in general, are more prone to concussions in soccer and they may be more aware of the possible benefits of wearing headgear,” remarked Dr. Delaney, who also practices at the McGill Sports Medicine Clinic. Since 2002, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has authorized soft headgear during official matches but has not made it mandatory. “This study may help convince parents and players that soft protective soccer headgear can be an effective part of a comprehensive plan to reduce the number of head injuries and concussions in soccer,” confirmed Dr. Delaney.