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Using Head in Soccer May Be Dangerous for Children


Netherlands' Dirk Kuyt goes for a header with Argentina's Javier Mascherano and Ezequiel Garay during the World Cup semifinal soccer match in Sao Paulo, Brazil, July 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Netherlands' Dirk Kuyt goes for a header with Argentina's Javier Mascherano and Ezequiel Garay during the World Cup semifinal soccer match in Sao Paulo, Brazil, July 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Soccer is not a violent game. But players can hit the ball with their head and collide with other players, the ground and goal posts.

Catherine McGill is a neuropsychologist at the Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C. She examines many children who have suffered concussions. Concussions are the most common brain injury, while playing soccer. She says concussions from soccer and other youth sports are increasing.

“One, we are getting better, and I say ‘we’ meaning parents, coaches and medical providers alike, are getting better at recognizing and responding to that injury, and that’s a huge testament to media paying more attention to this and leagues paying more attention to the safety of their players. Also, kids are getting bigger, faster, stronger across the sports, and so more injuries may be occurring simply because of that, and more kids are playing sports, and they’re playing more frequently.”

Catherine McGill spoke at a recent conference on ways to make soccer safer for young players. The meeting was held recently in Washington, D.C. Later, she spoke to VOA about her efforts. She says researchers are examining the effects of soccer-related head injuries. They want to know if repeated hits to the head can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE is a brain disorder than worsens as a person ages.

She says parents often ask doctors about the use of the head by soccer players to purposely change the direction of the ball. In the sport this move is known as a “header.”

“We’re often asked by parents, you know, what’s the age, what age do they start ‘heading’ or should there be ‘heading’ at all? And, the answer is this is a very individual decision. The age for one child may be very different for an age of another child, right?”

I’m Anna Matteo.

How are young athletes in your country protected from head injuries? We want to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments section.

VOA’s Mike Richman reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

collide – v. to hit something or each other with strong force; to crash together or to crash into something

concussion – n. an injury to the brain that is caused by receiving a powerful hit to the head

testament – n. proof or evidence that something exists or is true; informal – compliment, or good result from attention being paid

league – n. a group of sports teams that play against each other

frequently – adj. happening often

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