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In Injury-Prone Soccer, Headers Aren't the Problem
Date:1/26/2010

Colliding with other body parts, and the ground, cause more injuries, experts say

TUESDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Older kids who play soccer -- which has one of the highest injury rates among youth sports -- apparently are less apt to sustain a concussion from heading the ball than from hitting their head against another player or slamming their head into the ground, a new report says.

Ankle injuries are common among boys who play soccer, and knee injuries occur most often among girls. Overall, injury rates are especially high among pre-teen soccer players, the study authors noted.

Even so, said Dr. Chris G. Koutures, a pediatrician and sports medicine specialist in Anaheim Hills, Calif., and the report's lead author, precautions can make a big difference.

"Soccer is a wonderful sport," Koutures said. "It offers a lot of positive things to young players, and safer play can reduce injuries."

The report, published in the February issue of Pediatrics, compiled recent research into youth-soccer injuries. Overall, Koutures said, the rise in injuries shown by earlier studies could be due to more aggressive play or to better reporting of injuries.

One of the more surprising findings may be the fact that hitting the ball with one's head is not a major cause of concussions.

"Soccer has a comparable number of head injuries compared to football or ice hockey," Koutures said. "But the head injuries were not from trying to head the ball, but head versus head, head versus elbow, head versus ground."

That could be because, when a player heads the ball, "you've got your head, shoulder and neck muscles ready, you're prepared for the jolt," he said. Also, the ball is softer than, say, the ground.

Players younger than 10, though, appear to be at greater risk for injury from heading the ball, according to the report.

But another specialist warns that the jury i
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