By Ken Reed
The 2014 World Cup has been filled with excitement and drama.
Unfortunately, as with American football — albeit not to the same degree — a pall hangs over the games due to what we’ve learned in recent years about brain trauma and concussions in contact sports.
Concussions are fairly common in soccer but a growing concern is the repetitive sub-concussive blows to the brain resulting from the practice of heading.
Juliet Macur has written an excellent article in The New York Times about the risks of heading. Macur writes about Patrick Grange, the first soccer player to be officially diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative brain disease linked to too many shots to the head. It’s the same diagnosis given to numerous NFL football players, including a few who committed suicide due to the torment their diseased brains were causing them.
Macur also mentions a soccer study published in the journal Radiology last year. The study examined 39 amateur adult soccer players who had played soccer since childhood. The study concluded that heading had caused noticeable changes in the brain and resulted in “poorer neurocognitive performance.”
Concussions are an even bigger concern in the girls game. Girls soccer is second to football as the sport with the most concussions at the high school level.
Now, Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett, and Cindy Parlow Cone, teammates on the 1999 USA women’s World Cup champions, have teamed up with the Sports Legacy Institute and the Santa Clara Institute of Sports Law and Ethics for a campaign called Parents and Pros for Safer Soccer. They’ve called for guidelines calling for the elimination of heading the ball by players younger than 14. Heading is a leading cause of brain injuries in soccer, and as the Radiology report suggests, could be a cause of long-term neurocognitive problems.
It’s a serious issue that all soccer parents and coaches need to address.
“Soccer might not be football, but we do know now that brain injuries in soccer is a huge issue, and is a very serious issue,” said Parlow Cone. “I didn’t know that growing up. No one really did. The knowledge just wasn’t out there back then. But now there’s no excuse. We need to do better for our kids.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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