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 #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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