Teenage soccer players who wear protective headgear suffer nearly half as many concussions as those who play without helmets, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Canada's McGill University.
Researchers followed 250 adolescent (ages 12 to 17) soccer players during the 2006 season. They found that 53 percent of those who did not wear protective headgear suffered concussions compared to 27 percent of those who wore safety gear.
The study, published in the July 2007 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, also found that:
- Nearly half of the players (47.8%) experienced symptoms of a concussion during the 2006 season.
- Approximately 4 out of 5 athletes did not realize that they had suffered a concussion (most likely because they thought a concussion required a loss of consciousness)
- Multiple concussions were less frequent among the concussed athletes (50.0%) who wore protective headgear than those who did not (69.3%).
- Nearly one-quarter (23.9%) of players suffering concussions experienced symptoms for at least one day or longer.
- Female soccer players were at increased risk of suffering concussions.
- Female soccer players not wearing protective headgear were also at increased risk of suffering other kinds of head injuries, such as abrasions, lacerations or contusions on areas of the head that otherwise would have been covered by the headgear.
Should Parents Consider Headgear?
The McGill study is the first "to say that soft protective headgear for soccer significantly decreased the number of concussions for those athletes," said lead researcher, Dr. Scott Delaney in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Delaney hopes the study will prompt parents to consider headgear for their children.
The new study may also prompt a reevaluation of the effectiveness of protective headgear in soccer by soccer governing bodies, at least one of which, the U.S. Soccer Federation, is currently on record as stating that there is "no evidence that wearing this sort of headgear is beneficial to players," (a statement later at least partially retracted: it now admits helmets may be beneficial in head-to-head collisions) and as expressing the concern that "it might actually lead to more injuries" because of the so-called "gladiator effect" where players take more chances because they feel better protected.
The new study seems to show that wearing headgear does not encourage soccer players to play more aggressively.