Soccer head injuries cause new concerns

TAMPA, Fla. - Researchers have discovered a soccer player who died nearly two years ago suffered from brain trauma linked to repeated blows to the head.

Patrick Granger's brain was badly damaged and riddled with what's called chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. The disease was most notably linked to former boxers and NFL players but doctors now realize just about every contact sport poses the same threat.

The realization is now causing a lot of concern for parents who thought soccer was the safer option for their kid’s.

"You’re talking not only to a neuropsychologist, but also to a mom of three young boys," said Dr. Jennifer Mccain of Tampa General Hospital who specializes in traumatic brain injuries.

Dr. Mccain says most people think it only takes a direct hit to the head to cause a concussion but points out that’s just not the case.

"A concussion is a disruption in the brain function and it can be caused by a direct or indirect blow to the head," said Dr. Mccain.

A direct hit is what most of us relate to a concussed athlete. That could be a helmet to helmet tackle on the football field or heading a soccer ball into a goal. She says impacts to other parts of the body can have the same effect.

"You don’t have to hit your head,” said Dr. Mccain. “It could happen in a car accident where you have a whiplash injury or it could happen in a soccer play where someone is hit in the torso and they fall and they don’t even actually strike their head."

Symptoms can range from the very mild, fatigue, dizziness to the severe vomiting and disorientation. She adds it’s not only recognizing when it happens but knowing when it’s the right time to return to the field.  She advises giving an athlete who has suffered a concussion at least a week before returning them to competition.

"The brain is in development until people reach their 20s,” said Dr. Mccain. “What that means is that adolescents and young people are much more prone to trauma and the ill effects of concussion than older people."

As a precaution, health professionals suggested having a baseline concussion test performed. For more information on getting tested, click here .

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