Soccer Kids Need Protection
Although soccer can be a great overall sport for children, some youngsters are enduring mild to severe head traumas, neck injuries, damage to the cervical spine, headache, neck pain, dizziness, irritability, and insomnia as a result of their participation, according to the September 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Chiropractic Association (JACA). Each year, in fact, youths under age 15 suffer more than 227,100 soccer-related injuries, according to recent reports.
Heading the Ball A Risk
“People have this misconception that soccer has no risk,” says Scott Bautch, DC, past president of the American Chiropractic Associations (ACA) Council on Occupational Health. Soccer requires three basic skills kicking (striking the ball with the feet), trapping (similar to catching the ball, only using different parts of the body), and heading the ball (the deliberate use of the head to redirect the ball). Its that last one heading that stirs concern and controversy over possible permanent damage.
Helmets Not a Complete Solution
Some school districts are now requiring helmets for young soccer players. Dr. Bautch, who says helmets are “a positive,” worries that helmets dont protect the spine and dont make up for too aggressive play. “They are just a small piece that may give some protection,” he explains. “Id hate to see kids wear helmets and have people think that the kids are safe and that they dont have to teach safety and prevention. I would rather see no heading without helmets in young kids, and let helmets be introduced later.”
Prevention and Treatment of Injuries
Parents should also encourage a broad spectrum of sports to develop the whole body. Over-playing and over-training are problems exacerbated by ambitious parents, peer pressure and adult role models.
If an injury occurs, think RICE – rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the injury – which is the recommended procedure. Keep the injury iced until the swelling is down, applying ice no longer than a 20-minute session. After 20 minutes, ice fatigues the blood vessels and causes a heat reaction that actually increases swelling. Leave the ice off for about an hour and reapply. Then, try to get the child to move the injured area as soon as possible. If pain persists, consider taking your child to a chiropractor or other health care professional.
Parents can help protect their children from injuries. Many of the participants at a recent Consumer Product Safety Commission roundtable insisted that parents and coaches already have the tools at their disposal. Among them are
teaching and use of proper heading technique
use of smaller balls for younger players
strict enforcement of rules
padding of goal posts
use of mouth guards
improved medical coverage at games
coaches educated in symptoms of brain injury
proper nutrition, including plenty of water to keep muscles hydrated
Doctors of chiropractic are trained and licensed to treat the entire neuromusculoskeletal system and can provide advice on sports training, nutrition and injury prevention to young athletes.
From the American Chiropractic Association, www.amerchiro.org