An article appeared in the September 22, 1998, Washington Post on soccer head injuries, based in turn on a study in the November issue of the journal Neurology. A Dutch and American study of 80 long-term soccer players in their mid-twenties showed that they score poorly on tests of memory, planning and visual processing. The researchers believe that is the product of repeatedly heading the ball or colliding with other players or goalposts. The article reports that concussions are as frequent in soccer as American football. The impairment of mental function found was probably too subtle to be obvious to most people. The American Academy of Neurology provides copies of its guidelines for soccer coaches on head injuries by calling (800) 879-1960 or (703) 236-6000. In a separate development, ASTM's headgear subcommittee has discussed the soccer head injury problem and has a task force investigating whether or not a standard should be developed for soccer helmets. To our knowledge there is no product available on the market yet that provides head protection while still permitting the player to accurately head the ball.
I noticed in the news today, this story from
Thursday, December 15, 2005
By LARRY PHUNG
When the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association passed a rule requiring high school soccer players to wear mouth guards in 1999, Amherst-Pelham Regional girls coach Derek Shea remembers joking about what changes would come next.
"When mouth guards came up, we sat in the (coaches) meeting laughing, and someone said, 'helmets are next,'" Shea said. "I said that was ludicrous."
Ludicrous or not, soccer players on all levels from youth league to college could be required to wear helmets under legislation currently being considered in the Statehouse. Professional soccer players, like the New England Revolution, would be exempt. No other state appears to have a soccer helmet law.
"It's ridiculous. It's not football," Hampshire Regional senior Kristen Culver said. "You're not trying to hit the other person, you're trying to put the ball in the net. (Head injuries) happen, but not enough to enforce helmets."
State Rep. Deborah Blumer, D-Framingham, sponsored the bill on behalf of a constituent, but conceded it likely won't pass.
Still, high school players and coaches in the region expressed surprise, shock and even anger at the idea of a helmet law.
"Helmets? Definitely not," said varsity soccer player Cassie Ashwell, a junior at Agawam High School. "If you learn to head the ball properly, there shouldn't be any problem."
"I've played soccer and coached for 30-plus years," Shea said. "I can count on one hand the number of times I've been involved in a game when someone's had a head injury.
"I remember taking a pretty hard knock when I was 12, and I got it cleaned up, and got my stitches, but it's part of the game."
Supporters of the bill say helmets are needed to prevent head injuries from collisions and from heading, a key element of the game where players use their heads to ricochet the soccer ball to another player or at the goal.
But area coaches and players doubted that helmets would actually make the game safer.
"Besides having coached for 27 years, my three children have all played," said Chris Zguro, longtime boys coach at Springfield's Central High School. "Over the years, there have been some collisions, but I don't know exactly how a helmet would prevent that."
"If you hit somebody (while wearing a helmet), I would think there'd be more chance of a head injury," Belchertown junior Joanna Haqq said.
Players and coaches were also concerned about the effect helmets would have on field vision and playing balls in the air.
"It (would) kind of ruin your peripheral vision, and that's a huge part of the game," Haqq said.
"It's a little ridiculous," Ludlow senior Jared Falconer said. "If you have a helmet on, I don't know how you're going to do head balls."
"If a kid wanted to wear it, I certainly wouldn't stop them," Zguro said. "I'm not against keeping kids safe. I just don't understand how it would (help)."