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.
Women’s soccer causes more concussions than football. The black and white ball curves through the sky and hits the player’s head before it soars upward again. That brief contact with the soccer ball can cause extensive damage if players are not careful, especially women.
The concussion rates in soccer are as high as typical contact sports like football and hockey. This is mainly due to players hitting heads when attempting to head the ball. Also, heading the ball itself, especially repetitively in practice or games, can produce subconcussive hits leading to cumulative brain damage over time.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.