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How dangerous is heading in soccer?

Soccer is one of the most popular sports. 265 million individuals play the sport around the globe, but are the consequences to using your head on the field?

Performing a "header" in soccer is a common technique where players control the ball using their head. FIFA does not require soccer players to wear protective gear on their heads, which some say may be cause for concern. Researchers suggest that this method could be causing brain injuries, especially in younger players and women.

What does the research say?

After studying the MRI scans of 98 soccer-playing individuals, researchers found that these players, females especially, had more injury to their brain's tissue. While it is unclear whether females are actually more susceptible or if they are better at reporting their injuries, it can be seen that the brain is sensitive to repetitive low-impact blows to the head that could create health issues in the long run.

Injuries that can result from soccer heading include:

  • Concussions
  • Contusions
  • Eye injuries
  • Neck injuries
  • Fractures

Are these injuries preventable?

The study authors say that this research is most important for those who do not already have an injury to their brain, as protection or abstaining from performing headers could protect the brain from potential harm.

A professor at Northwestern University says that this research may lead to the "preventative mechanisms of concussions, whether or not it's a brace or a helmet or heading technique or a different way we think about this in men and women."

If you or someone you know is involved in soccer, this information could be vital. Before you play soccer, it may be wise to think about protecting your head from the ball.

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