Is Heading in Soccer Dangerous?

Heading in soccer has become a controversial issue especially at the youth levels with the increased knowledge of concussions in recent years. As a player that was always regarded as tall within any team, I took to heading as an advantage over other players. Being tall and having the ability to head a soccer ball made me a more valuable player. As I play to this day I do not think much about head injuries. I have sustained multiple concussions in my time playing soccer, however only one of which came directly from heading the ball. Personally, the idea of banning headers in soccer even at the youth levels makes me cringe, but there may be some facts behind headers drastically increasing the number of head injuries.

First off, heading might seem like the main danger for concussions. However, studies have shown that there is just as much of a risk in getting a concussion from dangerous and reckless plays in soccer as there are in heading. The teaching of safer play could decrease the amount of concussions in youth soccer more than eliminating heading.

Of course heading a soccer ball can lead to concussions. There is a proper way to do headers though. Most concussions stemming from heading a soccer ball come from improper techniques of heading the ball. If heading is continued to be allowed in youth soccer, proper coaching of heading a ball should be employed. But still, are there unnecessary risks involved with heading a ball?

The biggest risk involved with heading a soccer ball comes from cumulative damage from heading the ball too often. While more commonly associated with football players, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has had cases in soccer from constant heading. That is the main danger of heading in soccer. Constantly smashing your head against something will cause these types of problems. The risk in heading is not from a single header, but the accumulation of headers a player would do. With that being said, it should also be noted that one researcher noted a threshold of 1,100 headers in a single year, which is a pretty significant amount for even a professional player let alone a youth player. It is believed that beyond that threshold, “heading may be problematic.”
Heading in soccer, as with many plays in sports, have its risks. However, eliminating heading from the game would not eliminate the impact of head injuries on the game. To decrease the number of head injuries in soccer, safer play needs to be taught. This encompasses not only toning down excessively physical play, but also teaching better heading techniques to players.

2 thoughts on “Is Heading in Soccer Dangerous?

  1. nhb5050

    Coming from someone who has played soccer their entire life, I very much enjoyed reading this article. I’ve seen many people, including myself, get concussions from the sport, and very much agree that heading is the only cause. I am a goalie, and got a concussion from diving into the post and hitting my head the wrong way. At one point, my coach required girls who were frequently getting concussions to purchase Full90 Performance Soccer Headgear Premier Headbands. Players who wore these on my team actually did not get concussions as frequently! Although I agree with you that headers should not be banned, I think that players and leagues need to take more caution in order to prevent as many concussions as we can.

  2. das5959

    This article was extremely informative, and I learned a lot. It brings up a lot of frustration though, because of how uptight the NFL has become with concussions. It honestly pisses me off, because people have been playing football for years, even before there were helmets. Why the heck are we just now deciding that what we’re doing is dangerous? With updates in technology, we should have the safest helmet yet. However we’re running around acting like we’re playing with no helmets making tackles and playing rugby. There are so many other sports (like soccer) that involve much more contact with the head, and are not freaking out so much about concussions. I think this article could be ported to all sports; everyone could make use of being taught safer techniques, and toning down unnecessary physical play. (let’s leave out hockey, because they’re all crazy haha)

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