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World Cup incident prompts calls to limit heading in youth soccer

Many Massachusetts parents encourage their children to participate in group sports, which can be beneficial to their physical, social, emotional, and intellectual health. Unfortunately, sometimes participation in sports can leave children with brain injuries that can have long-term negative effects on their health and wellness.

Some recent studies have shown that young soccer players may not be ready for heading, a move that enables a player to hit the soccer ball with his forehead. Several children--and adults--who are not properly trained may use the top of their heads to hit the ball, which can lead to a severe head injury.

For this reason, the Western New England Soccer Academy has proposed limiting heading to athletes who are at least 14 years old. By this age, athletes may be more likely to recognize the signs of a concussion and ask to be removed from play when they are facing a serious head injury. Despite the calls for change, the organization does not recommend eliminating heading from the game altogether.

The dangers of heading have come to light following the recent World Cup games in which a German player continued to play even after he suffered a blow to the head; his condition worsened and he was later removed from the game.

When athletes continue to play even after a serious injury, it may lead to further damage and even a permanent disability. It is important for anyone who has suffered a brain trauma to seek medical care as soon as possible. Victims of brain injuries as a result of medical malpractice may be entitled to compensation; in these cases, it is usually best to work with an experienced attorney.

Source: ABC 40, "New Debate Focuses on Soccer Concussions," July 15, 2014

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