As a parent, you are aware of how much your young son or daughter wants to join the school soccer team. In fact, it's all you've heard from your child all summer long.
You don't want to be an overprotective parent rearing a little snowflake. Still, you hesitate, because you've heard that head shots in soccer can lead to irreversible brain damage.
What's a parent to do?
It's hard to make the call as to whether to allow your child to play soccer and contact sports like football or rugby. Most kids can play with no long-term ill effects. Yet, there is evidence that "excessively heading a soccer ball can injure a player's brain," as the Scientific American reported after interviewing a neurosurgery professor at Boston University's School of Medicine. The professor is also the co-founder of the Sports Legacy Institute.He stated that research shows that heading soccer balls can contribute to neurodegenerative problems, one of which is devastating — chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Scientists have determined there is a link between frequent ball-heading and abnormalities of the brain. To find that correlation, researchers compared the brains of competitive swimmers with soccer players' brains. The former appeared normal while the latter had an abnormal appearance of the white matter fiber tracts for the brains' nerve cells.
These tracts are used in the transmission of "messages" to other nerve cells. When an individual's brain gets violently shaken up, the fiber tracts in the brain can be disrupted.Effects can be life-altering
Some consequences of concussive and subconcussive trauma can cause cognitive symptoms, including:
- Changes in behavior
- Memory problems
- Mood lability
- Sleep difficulties
Will problems resolve?
That's the wild card here in this dilemma. Researchers have just begun to study these brain changes, and the studies are ongoing. At present, there is no definitive way to know whether, after competitive play has ended for these individuals, the abnormalities will resolve or worsen.
Who is liable for a soccer player's head trauma?
Here, too, there is no clear answer to fit all circumstances. Parents of players and the players themselves assume some risk when they sign up to play contact sports. That's why permission slips must be signed and on file before players are ever allowed to take the field.
But that signed permission slip doesn't absolve coaches, trainers and schools of all liability when their players get seriously injured on the soccer field. If a defendant was found to be negligent or otherwise in violation of the standards of care that should be used when determining whether players should return to the field after a hit, the issue of liability may arise.