What a great sport soccer appears to be for young children. Although it requires a high level skill and athleticism to play as an adult, the feeling of success can come quickly for the youngest of children. Baseball is full of failure with strike outs and dropped balls. Getting hit with the ball doesn’t feel good either. Football requires size and tolerance for repeatedly getting hit. Basketball requires height and speed in the majority of cases in order to keep progressing. Any child can quickly the see the objectives of soccer. Kick the ball into the goal. If you have trouble kicking it, stopping it can make you feel like a contributor to the team.
Of the four sports mentioned, which is potentially the most dangerous for your growing child? If you answered football, you would be wrong. Soccer is the definitive answer and I will explain why.
Several years ago I wandered into a classroom in a Las Vegas conference center needing to pick up one more hour of continuing education. A lecture on the brain by Daniel Amen, MD, seemed interesting enough. Dr. Amen is an international expert and author of numerous books on the brain. During his talk he stated something that really stuck with me. He stated “never bounce a soccer ball off your head.” He then went on to review the anatomy of the brain and skull. He stated the skull has a rough textured undersurface and compared the brain to the consistency of cottage cheese. Any activity that causes the soft brain to hit off of the hard, rough textured inner skull is a huge pathway to brain damage.
Since hearing this lecture I have observed the quality of health of adults and children with a history of playing excessive soccer. In many cases there is extensive evidence of neck and brain damage.
These effects have been seen in a young pre teen who suffers persistent headaches after practicing soccer “headers.” Terrible side effects of soccer were seen in a lovely young lady who has had severe neck pain after her college soccer career and another young man who stated to me that he had lost his photographic memory following a 90 minute practice session in which they reinforced the proper way to do headers. He ended up having neck surgery due to persistent pain in the neck and shoulder associated with soccer. It also showed up in a senior executive who had played soccer most of his life until early onset dementia set in and led to an early death.
Soccer is fine. Headers are not. Community and school representative need to take charge of eliminating headers from practice and games. The damage is irreversible and side effects are not readily, nor immediately seen.