Throughout the country, children and adolescents are widely encouraged to participate in team sports. Apart from simply being a source of exercise and good physical activity, sports also promote strategic thinking, teamwork, instill leadership qualities in youths and, of course, sportsmanship. The intangibles of sports (ideally) are what draw millions of children and teens to participate in youth sports ever year.
However, as idealistic as that may be, the reality of a sports injury is just as scary for children as it is for professional athletes. In fact, studies have shown that since the mandates of 2010 requiring all sports-related concussions to be reported, those same reports have increased. While it is promising that coaches and medical personnel are more vigilant than ever before, the fact that the frequency of concussion cases among youth athletes in the United States has increased still leaves some unnerved and alarmed.
This stat line is particularly concerning in regard to female soccer players. According to a study conducted by Dr. Wellington Hsu et. al., females seem to suffer concussions and concussion-related injuries more frequently than males, and more frequently when playing soccer. While there are plenty of places to point fingers from a semi-objective standpoint (such as the significant lack of any sort of padding or the fact that the sport includes children and adolescents running at near-full speed toward each other, or even the fact that both of these events are occurring simultaneously), most of these situations don’t explain the difference in scale between boys and girls. Dr. Hsu posits a different theory.
The difference is simply in genetics. Because young girls typically don’t develop their neck muscles as quickly as boys, they are more prone to neck-related injuries and subsequently the often-occurring “whiplash” effect that takes place at impact to cause a concussion. Regulations in place for soccer also prohibit children from learning any sort of “heading” techniques – that is, hitting a ball with your head – until they have reached 11 years of age. Despite these regulations, some believe that learning proper techniques at earlier ages could be a key preventive measure.
There are other proposed reasons for the substantial number of occurrences in girls’ soccer. Some believe that the modern world has encouraged a more aggressive style of play among youth athletes. Some researchers believe there are more cases among females because girls are simply more likely to report their symptoms than boys. The fact of the matter is that personal injury is a very real concern for youth athletes, especially on a long term scale. If children are making themselves so susceptible to injuries before their bodies are even fully developed, what sort of far-reaching impact could this have on the rest of their lives?
The NFL faces an ongoing lawsuit for unreported or untreated cases of concussions suffered during football games. This class-action suit has numbered into the thousands of players and former athletes, costing the NFL into the billions of dollars in medical research and examinations as well as litigation fees and compensation. During this time of research, it was also discovered that prolonged lack of treatment for or exposure to concussions has a significant connection to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This condition alone has accounted for what has been ruled as the wrongful deaths or suicides of several noted former NFL players such as Ken Stabler and Junior Seau, among many others. Now, consider this. If players in professional atmospheres such as the NFL have access to what some might regard as the best medical personnel in the industry and still suffer concussions or show concussion-like symptoms on a regular basis, what hope should a parent in Tennessee hold should their child sustain such an injury? It’s unlikely you as a parent would be able to explain effectively such dangers to prospective youth athletes. Consulting a professional in injury law might still be a viable alternative. Even if it doesn’t necessarily ensure the safety of your child on an athletic field, at least it might afford you the chance to take proactive measures to make sure they can have the same level of care should they ever – though hopefully, they won’t – need it.