The scientific evidence is mounting: even mild childhood head injuries can increase the risk of low educational attainment, psychiatric hospitalization and early death, according to a highly respected team of scientists from the US, UK, and Sweden.
“Even a single mild traumatic brain injury will predict poor adult functioning.”
-Amir Sariaslan, University of Oxford, UK
To be clear, ‘traumatic brain injury’ sounds like a major head injury to us non-medical parents, coaches, and players, but in the medical world ‘just’ a concussion is considered a traumatic brain injury.
And I also wanted to share the following recent comments published in the New York Times by Dr. Omalu, the forensic pathologist and neuropathologist who first discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy in American football players. He is featured in the movie Concussion. The last sentence struck me as especially profound so I bolded it.
“Our children are minors who have not reached the age of consent. It is our moral duty as a society to protect the most vulnerable of us. The human brain becomes fully developed at about 18 to 25 years old.
We should at least wait for our children to grow up, be provided with the information and education on the risk of play [in American Football], and let them make their own decisions. No adult, not a parent or a coach, should be allowed to make this potentially life-altering decision for a child.
We have a legal age for drinking alcohol; for joining the military; for voting; for smoking; for driving; and for consenting to have sex. We must have the same when it comes to protecting the organ that defines who we are as human beings.”
To be clear, there is a big difference in risks between American Football and soccer. Like probably in any team sport, there are brain injury risks playing soccer, but those are arguably manageable through smart and prudent preventive measures, including heading rules for youngsters and stricter enforcement of challenges on players that risk injury to the brain.
But let’s get ahead of this in soccer. Take the risks of head injuries seriously folks, even mild ones!