Life can be really quite ironic. Back in June, I wrote about the importance of bicycle helmets for all members of the family. I had just suffered my first concussion while playing adult co-ed soccer when I choose that topic. It never occurred to me just how dangerous soccer could be or how important protective head gear is to the safety of your brain. It’s only a ball, right?
Soccer has made an enormous climb in popularity in the United States over the last 20 years. Women’s collegiate teams have grown by over 115%, the number of high school players has more than doubled to nearly one million, and men’s teams grew nearly 50% within the same time period. Last year’s soccer World Cup was even said to have had more fans watching than the average viewership for baseball’s World Series. The name Beckham? Just as recognizable as the name Jeter, right?
Unfortunately, the number of head injuries incurred has grown along with soccer’s growth in popularity. The CDC explains best what a concussion is: “A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth.” Concussions can last for weeks, months, and can sometime have lifetime effects. The symptoms can include: headaches, numbness, decreased coordination, nausea, slurred speech, convulsions, seizures, memory loss, etc.
This is your brain – not your knee or ankle or hamstring. You can visibly recover from those injuries. It’s much more difficult to “see” your brain heal which means you’ll likely be prescribed “brain rest” – no TV, no video games, no reading, getting lots of rest, and – in my case – someone else watching your children.
Here we are 4 months later, and I am just recovering from a second Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). In my last soccer game (final per doctor’s orders), I took a direct shot to the jaw which was dislocated, my chin bruised, and my brain rattled inside my skull. After two weeks of “brain rest,” I am finally back to work – although it’s been a gradual return. My memory is still sketchy, but one thing is very clear – soccer is in desperate need of making head injuries a less frequent occurrence.
Bicyclists wear helmets and the number of head injuries has greatly decreased over the last ten years. The National Football League is constantly working on making certain hits grounds for suspension and looking to better the current protective gear. Soccer has protective head gear, but it has yet to become mandatory. Protect your brain now, not once the doctor has told you and certainly not once it comes into fashion. It just may be too late.