Study on concussions sounds the alarm for young female soccer players

There’s a new warning from parents who think soccer is a safe alternative to other contact sports. A study just out confirms that while concussion rates in many sports are down, girls who play soccer are at nearly the same risk for traumatic brain injuries as boys who play football. It’s a trend so alarming, some of women soccer’s top pros are donating their brains to science.

Stars Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach, Michelle Akers and Brandi Chastain’s pledge to donate their brains was sparked by concern over the long-term impact of all those headers and collisions. In June, CBS News spoke with retired World Cup winners Akers and Chastain.

“I smashed into the back of her head and so I broke my orbital fracture and broke my nose and my teeth,” Akers said.

The two women are part of a Boston University study looking at the impact of soccer on the brain. A new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, looks at head trauma in high school sports.

Brandi Chastain and Michelle Akers take part in new CTE study

Boy’s football had the highest rate of concussion, at 10 per every 10,000 practice or competition. Girls soccer was second, at a rate of eight per 10,000. Boy soccer players had a much lower rate. In the 20 sports studied, girls had more than twice the rate of concussions compared to boys.

Olivia Hans, 12, got a concussion in October during a soccer game when she collided with another player and hit the ground.

“I’ve had really bad headaches and I had just been sleeping a lot for the past week,” she said.

For girls, heading the ball or colliding with another player were the main causes of concussions.

“We are still working on proper diagnosis and management but we’re also really trying to promote awareness and prevention,” said Dr. Jason Krystofiak, a team doctor for the women’s professional team.

There are some theories for the disparity in concussions between boys and girls. It may have something to do with differences in hormones between the sexes, or maybe differences in the anatomy of the neck. Another possibility is that girls may be more likely to report symptoms of a concussion than boys. So maybe concussions in boys are actually more frequent than we realize.

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