Since Jim Nantz misquoted a few statistics regarding concussions in girls soccer, the sport has received a great deal of interest in regards to its health and safety sources. It inspired one mom recently to start a women’s concussions site.
Scientists in London now have published research that suggests the force of a header in soccer can be substantial. The study, published last week by the Wall Street Journal, cited research by scientists at Imperial College London, who studied ball-to-head contact, which they said has been rarely studied.
Experiments measured the forces and acceleration of a regulation, adult-size-5 ball propelled repeatedly at a magnesium dummy-like head at 18 meters per second, which is considered the average speed a ball is kicked by nonprofessional players. As a comparison, the researchers measured forces exerted on the dummy head by punches from amateur boxers.
The data showed the average forces of a soccer-ball header were similar to those exerted on the head by punches from amateur boxers, according to Daniel Plant, a researcher in Imperial’s department of mechanical engineering, who presented the data Friday at a helmet-safety science conference at the university.
In studies with soccer balls, there was little difference with or without headgear, and in the case of one type of headgear, there was evidence the force on the head was greater when a helmet was worn than when not, according to the data.
The size of the ball and its inflation are factors in the study, in which the researchers offered a few conclusions.
Depending on the age, youth players should use a ball of size 4 or smaller. And players should make sure the ball doesn’t absorb water, since that makes it heavier, according to Dr. Plant. Newer balls come with a coating that inhibits water absorption, which isn’t the case with older leather balls.
Dr. Plant said that proper technique and training are critical to reducing risk of injury.
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor