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Preventing Concussions in Youth Soccer

Because the most commonly used return-to-play guidelines recommend that an athlete who has suffered multiple concussions be held out of sports for increasingly longer periods of time, up to and including the rest of the season, preventing another concussion may be the difference in the athlete being able to continue playing that season or having to shut his season down.

While athletes sustaining a concussion are at a 3-fold increased risk for future concussions, a risk that increases with each subsequent injury, unlike musculoskelatal injuries, few strength and conditioning methods will help prevent further concussions. This does not mean, however, that no preventative methods can be taken to minimize recurrence of concussions and other head injuries.

In an article by three certified athletic trainers in the July-September 2001 special issue of the Journal of Athletic Training devoted to concussions in athletes, the authors suggest that reviewing game or practice films may "help reveal poor techniques, such as leading with the head to tackle or block or heading a soccer ball incorrectly," and that "reviewing the tape with the athlete and the coach may be useful in improving the athlete's technique or changing the coach's teaching methods."

In an 1999 article in The Physician and Sportsmedicine, Frederick Meuller, PhD, the director of the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and I recommended the following preventative measures to reduce the number of fatalities and catastrophic injuries in youth soccer:

  1. Anchoring soccer goals and warning players to avoid climbing on them.
  2. Using proper moving, maintenance, and storage techniques.
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