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High risk of brain injury and concussion in girls' soccer

As high school sports become more and more competitive and intense, both in Virginia and across the country, the risk of suffering real injury while playing these sports increases. The risk of brain injury in sports like football, hockey and soccer continues to be covered by news media as more medical research comes to light on the risks and effects of concussions and other brain injuries.

Statistics from the High School RIO (reporting information online), a system which surveys injuries, reveals that the three sports with the highest rate of concussions are football, boys' hockey and girls' soccer. Experts theorize that certain characteristics, such as susceptibility to migraines, hormonal differences, and weaker muscles and tighter ligaments in the neck area, may be part of the reason why the rate of concussion in female soccer players is so high. The risk of suffering a concussion increases by 1.5 times and 3.5 times after first and second concussions, respectively.

Because of the serious risk of concussions and traumatic brain injury for players, many athletic associations and coaches are working to implement policies and increase education related to preventing and reducing the number of concussions. One of the most common protocols involves removing a player from a game if a concussion is suspected to prevent the risk of a second injury. Many coaches and experts urge against relying on a player's own self-evaluation, as most players simply want to return to the game and will minimize their symptoms.

As the risk of concussion and serious brain injury is well-known in these sports, a Virginia coach or trainer's unwillingness to pull a player from a game or adequately respond to symptoms could be negligence. It is critical that coaches and trainers monitor their players in this regard because brain injuries have a range of long-lasting negative effects, including seizures, personality changes, loss of cognitive abilities, memory loss, and even death in extreme cases.

Source: Washington Post, "Reducing the number of concussions in high school girls' soccer is a daunting task," Chelsea Janes, April 24, 2014

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