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Concussions in girls soccer

Area coaches concerned but report no problems locally

September 25, 2012
By BURT ANGELI - Sports Writer , The Daily News

IRON MOUNTAIN - Concussions affect hundreds of girls playing soccer each year.

That's according to the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

But soccer coaches in the Iron Mountain-Kingsford area have not detected a problem.

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"I have never had a player with a concussion in the eight years of coaching girls high school or the Northern Stars," Kingsford High School head coach Todd Formolo said.

Veteran Iron Mountain High School coaches Jim Laydon and Jeff Porier don't recall a girl suffering a concussion. Although Porier, a coach for 18 years, did remember one male injured from a header.

"In the past 10 years of coaching girls in several age groups, I do not recall one of my players experiencing a concussion or even a head injury of any significance," Laydon said.

Yes, the header seems to be the soccer play that most often leads to concussions, according to Dr. Bob Cantu, chairman of the surgery division and the director of sports medicine at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Mass.

Cantu calls heading, when players use their foreheads to direct the ball, one of the most dangerous parts of soccer because players often collide. He wants heading eliminated from girls soccer age 14 and under.

"Girls as a group have far weaker necks," Cantu told NBC News' "Rock Center" news program. "The same force delivered to a girl's head spins the head much more because of the weak neck than it does the guys."

Area youth soccer coaches want to keep heading the ball, with an emphasis on technique and training.

" Heading the ball is an important skill," Porier said. "Teaching the player the proper technique is extremely important.

"Improper heading is what causes the problem."

Formolo regards heading a ball as "a major part of the sport."

"If trained properly on heading a ball, injuries such as these could be avoided in normal circumstances," he said.

Laydon also agrees that heading is a "very big part of the game" and "should absolutely not be banned."

"Like any sport, soccer has very specific fundamentals that must be taught correctly in order to prevent injury," he said. "Most injuries occur in tackling, slide tackling and, of course, heading.

"Evidence shows that heading injuries are not caused by head to ball contact, but by head to head contact."

Heading should taught carefully and effectively, not banned for young players, according to Laydon.

"Kids learn sports at an early age," he said. "If they don't learn the proper fundamentals of heading when they are learning the other aspects of the game they will feel it is not a natural part of the game when the time comes," he said. "It is important that they learn the correct fundamentals, even though they may not use them for a few years."

Two coaches with the local Northern Stars - Ken Klarich and Jeff Campbell - have not witnessed a concussion.

"The girls on my team are a little timid to head the ball if it is coming at them with any speed," said Klarich, who coaches an under age 13 girls team.

His team works on the proper way to head the ball. Although he isn't totally against the idea of an age limit for the soccer tactic.

"The older players with a passion for the sport would be more willing to learn the proper way to

do this," he said.

Campbell, a competitive soccer coach for six years, notes a player on his daughter's Neenah travel team wore head gear after issues with concussions.

"It is my understanding that these concussions resulted from head-to-head contact and not from heading the ball," Campbell said. "I would not ban heading at any age group as it is an integral part of the game."

American Journal of Sports Medicine reports only football tops girls soccer when it comes to concussions.

Area high school and Northern Stars soccer programs are well prepared for concussions, if they should occur.

"We make sure all the players go through the testing procedures with (trainer Lane Lindeman of Dickinson Healthcare System) and monitor them closely for any signs during the matches," Formolo said.

Campbell also pointed out, and supports. that "varsity level players are required to take baseline tests to objectively measure the impact of a head trauma."

Laydon agrees that concussions are a major concern.

"Every licensing class I have been to and coaching seminar I have attended have spent a significant amount of time on recognizing the symptoms of a concussion as well as sideline care and the recovery process," he said.



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