Ever since 1984, the year soccer passed baseball as the most popular team sport in the United States, participation in this sport has skyrocketed. With increasing numbers of children running and kicking their way down soccer fields across America, doctors of chiropractic are urging parents to take a step back and learn how to protect their children from the potential injuries this popular sport can cause.
Although soccer can be a great overall sport for children, some youngsters are enduring mild to severe head traumas, neck injuries, damage to the cervical spine, headache, neck pain, dizziness, irritability, and insomnia as a result of their participation, according to the September 2010 issue of the Journal of the AmericanChiropractic Association (JACA). Each year, in fact, youths under age 15 suffer more than 227,100 soccer-related injuries, according to recent reports
Heading the Ball: A Risk for Children
“People have this misconception that soccer has no risk,” says Scott Bautch, DC, president of the American Chiropractic Association’s (ACA) Council on Occupational Health, who has five children currently playing soccer. “ I think soccer is too aggressive too early, which is leading to potential problems. It’s not as though we can fix brain damage later on in these kids’ lives.”
Soccer requires three basic skills–kicking (striking the ball with the feet), trapping (similar to catching the ball, only using different parts of the body), and heading the ball (the deliberate use of the head to redirect the
ball). It’s that last one–heading–that stirs concern and controversy over possible permanent damage.
Helmets: Not A Complete Solution
Some school districts are now requiring helmets for young soccer players.
However, Dr. Bautch, who says helmets are “a positive,” worries that helmets don’t protect the spine and don’t make up for too-aggressive play. “They are just a small piece that may give some protection,” he explains. “I’d hate to see kids wear helmets and have people think that the kids are safe and that they don’t have to teach safety and prevention. I would rather see no heading without helmets in young kids, and let helmets be introduced late.”
Prevention and Treatment of Injuries
Parents should also encourage a broad spectrum of sports–like soccer, skating and skiing, for example–to develop the whole body. Over-playing and
over-training are problems exacerbated by ambitious parents, peer pressure and
adult role models. Children need their rest time.