Listen to Your Chiropractor - Soccer Kids Need Protection
Soccer just might be the most popular team sport for kids in the United States. Over the past few decades in North Carolina, we've seen participation in this sport skyrocket. More and more children are running and kicking their way down soccer fields across every county in NC. As a chiropractor in Raleigh NC, I am urging parents to take a step back for a moment and think about all of the the potential injuries that this popular sport can cause. It is not as safe as one might think.
Parents, don't get me wrong ... I love soccer and think it is a great overall sport for children, but some kids are enduring mild to severe head traumas, neck injuries, damage to the cervical spine, headaches, neck pain, dizziness, irritability, and even insomnia as a result of playing it. One study from the Journal of the American Chiropractic Association reported that youths under age 15 suffer more than 227,100 soccer-related injuries each year.
Heading the Ball: A Risk for Children
Scott Bautch, DC, is one of the past presidents of the American Chiropractic Association's (ACA) Council on Occupational Health. Dr. Bautch has five children that have played organized soccer. He said that "People have this misconception that soccer has no risk," and that "soccer is too aggressive too early, which is leading to potential problems. It's not as though we can fix brain damage later on in these kids' lives."
As a former soccer player, I can tell you that it requires three basic skills. These skills are kicking, or striking the ball with the feet, trapping and stopping the ball when it has been passed to you to control it, and heading the ball. Heading the ball means using your head to redirect the ball. Heading is the move that can create the highest risk of possible permanent damage.
Philip Santiago, DC, was an All-American soccer player in college and even played as professional player for five years. He said that heading is safe, but only when children are given the "proper coaching in proper technique." Dr. Santiago thinks that it would better for youngsters to hold off on heading until age 10 or 11, while Dr. Bautch prefers they wait until they are between the ages of 14 and 16. This way, the maturation and development of the spine has increased and will be more able to take the physicality of the sport more easily.
Helmets are Not a Complete Solution
In some school districts across the United States, helmets are now being required for all young people playing team soccer. Dr. Bautch says that the use of helmets is "a positive," but also worries since helmets don't protect the spine and cannot make up for too-aggressive play. Helmets might even encourage more aggressiveness with a false sense of security. Dr. Bautch says, "They are just a small piece that may give some protection," and that he would "hate to see kids wear helmets and have people think that the kids are safe and that they don't 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
Parents, do not let your kid get burned out on one sport and please encourage them to try a broad spectrum of sports - like soccer, skating, basketball, and swimming for example. This will help them to develop their whole body. Over-playing one sport and overtraining in one area are problems that can be exacerbated by ambitious parents, peer pressure and bad adult role models. Make sure your children are also getting their much needed rest time.
Recommendations for Soccer Safety
Parents, you can help protect your children from soccer injuries. As a chiropractor in Raleigh, I can already tell you that you have all the tools at your disposal. Here are a few to remember:
- Teaching and use of proper heading technique
- Smaller balls for younger players
- Strict enforcement of rules
- Padded goal posts
- Use of mouth guards
- Better medical coverage at games
- Educated coaches in symptoms of brain injury
- Proper nutrition, including plenty for hydrated muscles
If your child is suffering from neck or back pain from soccer, please bring them to Falls Chiropractic and Injury for a spinal check up. We're the local experts for Raleigh NC chiropractic care for kids. Call us today to learn more.