With the high risk of brain injuries in football, many young athletes and their parents are looking for safer athletic alternatives. Unfortunately, many of them are choosing soccer. Soccer is a great sport with a long history, but it also carries a similarly high-risk for concussions and long-term brain injury that often gets overlooked. In many reports, soccer comes second only to football for the highest number of brain injuries experienced every season.
From 2010-2015, the AAOS found that the concussion rate was higher in girls’ soccer than boys’ football, and from 2014-2015 concussions were more common in girls soccer than any other sport. Sienna Nealon, a sophomore soccer player at John Brown University, said because she’s had many concussions, she practices hitting the ball with her shoulder instead of her head.
Football accounted for more than half of all concussions, and it had the highest incidence rate (0.60). Girls' soccer had the most concussions among the girls' sports and the second-highest incidence rate of all 12 sports (0.35). Concussion rate increased 4.2-fold (95% confidence interval, 3.4-5.2) over the 11 years (15.5% annual increase).
In high school, football has by far highest concussion rate at 9.70 per 10,000 AEs; second is girls’ soccer at 6.91 per 10,000 AEs, nearly 30% lower. Because of the number of children who play each sport, football is also responsible for nearly twice as many concussions each year as girls’ soccer (103,830 vs. 59,447).
Women’s football (or soccer) (0.13/1,000 AE) Men’s ice hockey (0.12/1,000 AE) Men’s football (or soccer) (0.08/1,000 AE) One important finding is that in sports played by both men and women, women sports typically had a higher rate of concussion. This is especially interesting in sports like hockey.
Concussions. Many of the sports played throughout high school and college have high concussion rates. However, as shown in the chart to the right, the sports with the highest rates are football, ice hockey, wrestling and women’s soccer. Particularly in high school football has a commanding “lead” in concussions per 10,000 games and practices.
However, concussion injuries are equally likely in soccer and football players. Football players are more likely to suffer injuries to the cervical spine, which can be catastrophic or life-threatening.
There is also data showing that, while football causes a higher number of concussions, girls and boys' high school soccer is responsible for more of the serious concussions. We can tell that from...