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Researchers Suggest That Soccer Officials Too Dismissive of Heading Issues

It is one thing to be ignorant of the risks of sports head injuries, it is another to knowingly fail to take those risks as seriously as necessary. According to a Fox News story this week, many brain injury researchers have voiced displeasure at the fact that U.S. soccer officials are not taking new evidence of the effect of their activities on player health into enough account. As our Chicago brain injury attorneys have discussed over the past few weeks, results of a high-profile study suggest that many soccer players may face serious long-term problems as a result of frequent “heading” of the soccer ball.

Dr. Michael Lipton, the lead author of the study recently explained that the involved soccer officials were too dismissive of the study’s findings-a perspective that may ultimately place more players than necessary in danger of long-term brain injuries. As we earlier reported, the study found significant brain trauma in players who frequently headed the ball. The trauma was indicative of that found in most concussion patients. White matter in the brain that is responsible for a variety of memory, vision, and attention functions were affected.

The “frequency” of heading which was shown to have long-term effects was roughly 1,000-1,500 headers per year. Those involved in the study were all young professionals who played in amateur soccer leagues and who had been involved in the sport from a very young age. Of course, the participants were not individuals whose injuries made them incapable of functioning in society. Instead, the harm was more subtle, often affecting in small ways certain mental abilities. Essentially, the doctors were concerned that the affected players were not as mentally sharp as they could be had they not sustained the damage.

The doctors also noted that there were many similarities between these accidents and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) frequently suffered by football players. CTE is virtually undetectable in brain scans of living people; however the damage can be seen in autopsies. Essentially, CTE causes accumulations of tau proteins (as in Alzheimer’s patients) that kill brain cells responsible for emotions, moods, and executive functioning. Clearly, considering the potential severity of consequences caused by these soccer head injuries, those involved in the sport should address the matter aggressively.

However, that may not be the case. The executive director of US Youth Soccer questioned the studies variability. He noted that “the main concern we have is the data isn’t quite specific enough in regards to heading as the cause of concussions.” In other words, the director suggests that other impacts may have caused the trauma. The researchers addressed that point by explaining that study participants were measured for other actions throughout the year which may have led to brain trauma. Factoring in those other potential variables returned the same result. The doctor announced clearly the research team was “confident that the white matter damage we saw came from heading.” The Illinois brain injury lawyers at our firm know that it is vital for this research to be taken into account by those charged with keeping players safe.

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