By Ken Reed
For most of the past decade, the brain injury chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been linked with American football. This is due to the extensive number of collisions in the game and the relatively high rate of concussions suffered by participants.
Boxing and hockey are two other sports regularly identified as having a higher risk for brain injury.
However, in recent years, soccer has gained attention as being dangerous for the brain as well, due to the fairly high number of concussions (especially among girls) and the repetitive brain trauma resulting from the common practice of heading the ball.
Now, a new study has increased concerns about the safety of soccer, especially heading.
As part of the study, four former soccer players who had advanced forms of dementia were also found to have CTE, which can only be diagnosed posthumously.
Dr. Ann McKee, director of Boston University’s CTE Center, points out that CTE isn’t just a football-based disease.
“I think it points out again that this is an equal-opportunity disease,” says McKee. “It just depends on repetitive head impacts.”
The study’s lead author, Dr. Helen Ling of the University College London Institute of Neurology, seems to concur.
“This is the first time CTE has been confirmed in a group of retired footballers (soccer players),” says Ling. “They all sustained minor blows to the head thousands of times.”
The players in the study had not experienced significant concussions during their careers. As such, it indicates that repetitive blows to the head, such as from heading, collisions with other players, or running into goal posts, could be playing a significant role in the development of CTE in soccer athletes.
Study authors caution that because of the small sample size, more research, on a larger scale, is needed. They also point out that the players in the study had played soccer for more than two decades.
Nevertheless, soccer organizations have already taken steps in recent years to cut down on heading. For example, the American Youth Soccer organization has eliminated heading all together for players under the age of 10 and limited heading during practice for those between 11 and 13.
Given recent research on CTE, the growing focus on repetitive brain trauma, and the fact the human brain is still developing through the age of 20 — at least, restrictions on heading for youth and high school soccer are only likely to increase in the coming years.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon