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Are brain injuries more common in soccer than football?

There’s been a lot of focus lately on the long-term effects of concussions sustained by football players, but researchers are discovering that football is not the only sport that is a danger to the brain. In a study released recently, researchers have determined that repeated “heading” of a soccer ball could lead to abnormal brain scans and difficulty in successfully performing memory tests.

According to one expert, subconcussive impacts to the head may do more to cause long-term damage than actual concussions. The study proposes that this is because the repeated nature of those more subtle incidents do damage at a deep, molecular level.

While the study determined that there was a threshold in the number of headers a soccer player had to make before brain injuries began to occur, the range of that threshold is quite broad, from 900 to 1,500 hits.

The study participants were followed for a 10-month season, during which they headed the ball between 32 and 5,400 times. Depending on the player, it would not be too difficult to reach 900 headers in a season.

This means that there is a significant chance that doctors’ failure to diagnose the true cause of a young soccer player’s memory lapses could have a significant long-term impact on his or her life. Youth sports are intended to help children be more active and healthier, not to cause injuries that will last a lifetime.

For now, it will be up to parents to watch carefully for signs of doctor or hospital negligence in taking signs of brain injury seriously. If parents begin to doubt that their concerns are being taken seriously, they should seek another doctor’s office or hospital, and consider contacting an attorney for advice and assistance in pursuing their rights.

Source: CNN, "Heading a soccer ball may be bad for the brain," Stephanie Smith, June 11, 2013

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